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What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?

-- Aeschylus

Hospitality is the session's focus, with 19th-century Universalist minister John Murray the topic of the central story. Murray 's life might have been quite different, had he not been welcomed by Thomas Potter. The story becomes a vehicle for examining the role and practice of hospitality in our family and faith communities.

Hospitality played a particularly central role in Universalism, which has a faith tradition of universal love. For present day Unitarian Universalists, the challenge to hold in community people from diverse backgrounds with many different theologies asks each of us to practice intentional, thoughtful hospitality in our congregations.

This session talks about being hospitable and being welcoming interchangeably. If your congregation is an official Welcoming Congregation, you might like to introduce this aspect of being welcoming to the children in the group.

There are many versions of John Murray's story. The version presented here invites the children to participate in the telling and have a little fun.

It is important for young children to hear the stories of our faith tradition. Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists have a history full of brave individuals who lived according to values and principles they held dear. Hospitality is one of those values, and practicing it is not always easy.

When talking about being hospitable to strangers with young children, keep their safety in mind. Throughout the session and explicitly in Activity 4: Hospitality Hat, we encourage children to practice being welcoming. As you lead, integrate the message that children should be hospitable to strangers only under the supervision of a trusted adult, even at their faith home.

Activity 3: Ways to Welcome calls for an adult from your congregation to come and talk to the group. When your visitor arrives, model hospitality and invite the children to assist you. Be prepared. Have a place for visitors to sit. Greet them warmly, introduce them, and offer them a drink or a snack. After they speak with the group, thank them, and invite them back. If visitors will remain through the Closing, invite them to place a name stone on the labyrinth when they arrive so they can fully participate in the closing ritual.

For Activity 4: Making Windsocks, each child will need one empty, cylindrical cardboard container. Empty boxes of oatmeal or empty tubes of potato chips will work well, as will cardboard rolls from paper towels. Check with local schools, restaurants, and the congregation for containers at least a couple of weeks ahead.


This session will:

  • Define hospitality and some actions that convey it
  • Demonstrate the value of being hospitable to the stranger in our faith home
  • Guide participants to make a connection between being hospitable in their family homes and being hospitable in your faith home
  • Provide opportunities to practice safe hospitality

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Deepen their sense of Unitarian Universalist identity by learning a popular hymn
  • Learn the story of one of our Universalist ancestors
  • Observe one way their faith home practices hospitality
  • Practice acting hospitable and recognizing hospitality in different situations
  • Create a windsock to help them remember John Murray
  • Optional: Learn a way to be hospitable to those who speak a language other than English

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