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General Assembly 2007 Event 2070
Presenters: Rev. Sofia Betancourt, Taquiena Boston, Rev. Dr. Devorah Greenstein and Rev. Keith Kron.
This workshop was conducted by Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Staff members of the Identity-Based Ministries (IDBM), whose mission is to make Unitarian Universalism a welcoming, inclusive, empowering, and just faith for Unitarian Universalists who identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender; economically oppressed; Latina/Latino and Hispanic; multiracial families; people of color; and people with disabilities.
Taquiena Boston, Director of IDBM, introduced staff members Rev. Sofia
Betancourt (Program Director for Racial and Ethnic Concern), Rev. Dr. Devorah
Greenstein (Program Director for Accessibility Concern), and Rev. Keith Kron
(Program Director for Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concern).
Sofia Betancourt began with a reading from Radical Hospitality: Benedict's
Way of Love by Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Gollins Pratt.
"When we speak of hospitality we are always addressing issues of inclusion and exclusion. Each of us makes choices about who will and who will not be included in our lives...Issues of inclusion and exclusion, while personal, are not just personal. Our entire culture excludes many people. If you are in a wheelchair, for example, you are excluded because there are places you can't go. If you are very young, if you are very old, you are excluded... Hospitality has an inescapable moral dimension to it... It is an issue involving what it means to be human. All of our talk about hospitable openness doesn't mean anything as long as some people continue to be tossed aside...
"But calling hospitality a moral issue does not tell us the whole truth about hospitality either. A moral issue can become bogged down in legalisms, and hospitality is no legalistic ethical issue. It is instead a spiritual practice, a way of becoming more human, a way of understanding yourself. Hospitality is both the answer to modern alienation and injustice and a path to a deeper spirituality."
The presenters each modeled a story of feeling welcomed or not feeling welcomed before pairing up workshop participants to tell one another their own stories.
She was leaving a 30+ year marriage and coming out as a lesbian when she entered a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church in her hometown for the first time. It was a Gay Pride service. The hymn "We Are a Gentle, Angry People" left her in tears. She has felt welcomed from that day on.
She and her family have passed through the All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington DC many times and have been intrigued by the Wayside Pulpit, with sermon titles like, "God's Trombone" without stopping to visit until one Sunday in August when they decided to do so. The minister, the choir, and most of the members were on vacation and the service was lay-laid. It was far from the dynamic worship they were used to. During coffee hour, a lay leader explained the peculiar "summer schedule" of most UU congregations, and invited them to return when the minister would be back in the pulpit. It took only one person's hospitality to make them feel welcomed and to decide to return.
While she was a seminary student, she was invited by another seminary student of color to participate in a Kwanzaa service at her friend's church. The church was predominantly white and for that particular Sunday, they "showcased" the only people of color by having them participate in the service: a youth of color lighting the chalice, her friend doing a reading, and she herself being responsible for the music. After the service, a parishioner came up to her and commented on the unusual music then invited her to return for Black History month.
As a visitor to one of the churches in the Greater Boston Area (the identity was not revealed to protect the guilty), he would stand around during coffee hour with his green visitor's mug and no one would come to talk to him, leaving him to read all the announcements on the bulletin board. The only person who talked to him was a student ministerial intern. This went on for two whole months before someone besides the student intern talked to him
Some of the stories and insights participants shared with one another were:
Workshop attendees participated in another small group exercise to look at three separate scenarios and discuss how they would handle them:
The small group discussion period was highly energetic and although participants were not able to share their stories in the larger group due to lack of time, they left one another with a lot of share experiences and insights on welcoming the strangers as a spiritual practice.
Reported by Kok Heong McNaughton; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.
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Last updated on Monday, August 27, 2012.
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