Come, come, whoever you are ..."
Each Sunday morning, a lay member of our congregation stands in our pulpit and says to visitor and member alike “Welcome. You are welcome here.” The words they use have varied over time. In the summer and fall of this year, our opening words offered specific welcome to a diverse group of people: trans folks, those serving in the military, those of non-dominant cultural groups. Some in our congregation felt that these words were a meaningful expression of our commitment to inclusion. And some felt that these words felt divisive and didn’t see how the naming of groups showed our deep connection to each other.
And so, your ministers decided to explore and discern. You may have noticed that over the past three months these words of welcome have varied from weeks to week — some weeks longer, some shorter, some more specific, some more general. Our intention with this variation was to allow the ministers and congregation to reflect on balancing specificity with broadness, challenge with affirmation, and awareness with ritual. How do we balance our commitment to treat ALL as worthy, while reminding ourselves and sharing with newcomers that EACH person — with their unique experience and family and way of being — is welcome here.
And you shared feedback. Many missed the specificity of the welcome offered by our summer words. Many affirmed the shorter words. Some said the welcome words weren’t for our regulars anyway. And others shared that they felt a real call back to our commitment to radical welcome. And so we pondered and discerned with each other. And we wrote new words:
Good Morning and welcome to the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego – worshipping in Hillcrest and at our South Bay Campus in Chula Vista. I am _____________________ [welcomer shares name here].
We are a growing, diverse, and multigenerational congregation inviting people into deeper community, to nurture spiritual growth, and to act on our values to heal the world. Here we commit together to embrace the rich and beautiful diversity of the world.
People of all sexual orientations and gender identities
People of all economic statuses and professions, of all physical or mental abilities
People of all races and cultures
ALL are welcome here.
“All are welcome here.” Many people in many marginalized communities have heard these words from congregations and organizations they’ve explored — groups whose teachings and practices then showed them clearly, often painfully, that they were absolutely not welcome.
We focus in our justice work on grappling with specific issues — issues of race, of gender, of sexuality, of class. We have a banner on the front of our building that says “Black Lives Matter” — we fund a staff position to support families with trans youth. We seek justice for all by focusing on addressing the needs of specific groups to further that goal. When we say that black lives matter or focus our attention on trans youth specifically, we are not denying that all lives matter or that all youth and their families have struggles. But our society often says specifically that black lives don’t matter and that trans youth are to be mocked or abused or changed. And so we takes specific action to change that society.
By doing more than just saying “All are welcome” — by saying to trans people, or to Latinos, or to working class people that we are specifically welcoming them — we are saying, "We see YOU and who you are — We welcome YOU and the experience and perspective you bring with you — And we are committed to building a congregation which you can call home, in which you can grow and question and thrive." We say that we are a religious community that acknowledges and commits itself to the health and wholeness and holiness of people and communities so often ignored or abused by our world.
The ministers hope our new words of welcome will be an affirming call for our visitors and a reminder to our members and friends of our commitments.
Kathleen, Jennifer, and Ian
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