Repost–Are All Welcome Here?

A Summer repost from Sept. 13, 2024

Many years ago, our congregation began a deep conversation around what it means to be a welcoming congregation and what it means to be “radically welcoming.” That phrase, radically welcoming, caused us some pause–as well it should have. To this day, it challenges us to consider what welcome really means. Almost every church I pass by that has an announcement sign out front says that “all are welcome here.”  And yet.  I know from the news that I read and denominational stances that are well publicized, too often “all are welcome here” really means “all are welcome here if you fit the following criteria.”

If you fit the following criteria. These are the unsaid things on those welcome signs. They are often theological check points. Things one must believe or be willing to be led to believe if one enters this church. The unsaid criteria may include moral stances on any number of issues mostly involving human relationships and how we love one another. The unsaid criteria even includes things that remain unsaid but which are often acted out: how the community organizes around race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, political viewpoints, economic status, and mental health. Eventually, these silent criteria make themselves known and narrow the meaning of “all are welcome here.”

We Unitarian Universalists are not exempt from these pitfalls of welcome. My experience is that we will take on challenging issues as we become aware of them. Sometimes, we live in a lack of awareness, and it takes some painful experiences to jolt us awake. Sometimes, curiosity, courage and compassion work together to help us find our way forward into being a welcoming community beyond which we had not previously imagined. 

As we move into the world today, how are we welcoming, accepting, receiving and giving safe space to others? How are we being challenged to offer that kind of welcome–the kind that goes beyond our own comfort?

~Bob Patrick

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