General Assembly 2015 Event 303
Our human spirit is the dwelling place for our deepest desires and most frightening fears. We long for hands and hearts that will genuinely open to us. We resist connections and need connections. Soul-FULL Hospitality creates spiritual windows for us to risk vulnerability and receive healing balm for our thirsty souls.
- Karen Eng
- Rev. Sofia Betancourt
- Rev. Jacqueline Duhart
- Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong
- Rev. Mitra Rahnema
The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.
General Assembly Band
Susan: Good morning, my friends. We gather on this beautiful Friday to sing and worship together once again. I am so happy to introduce singer-songwriter Marshall Voit, from San Diego, California. Marshall will lead us in songs, some new, some familiar, songs to center body, mind, and spirit. We’ll start with one of his original pieces, “Common Ground.” Marshall, will you teach us your song?
Marshall: Our next song is #3 in Las Voces del Camino, our UU Spanish-language hymnbook. The anonymous songwriter gives us words of gratitude for the good things of our lives: “Thanks for the love of the sky, thanks for the immense sea, thanks for singing of the forest, Hallelujah! Thanks for the love of the world, thanks for the happiness, thanks for all my family, Hallelujah! Thanks for all the beauty, thanks for our youth, thanks for the friendship of all, Hallelujah! Thanks for this new day, thanks for our great union, thanks for all the goodness, Hallelujah!”
Susan: UU composer Mimi Bornstein describes “Comfort Me” as a song that came to her as a gift, and she has shared the gift of this song of comfort with Unitarian Universalists all over. Feel free to create your own harmonies around this lovely melody.
Marshall: Please rise in body or spirit to sing “Soon That Day Will Arrive,” also known as “Bashana Haba’ah.”
Marshall: We’ll sing one more song together before our Friday morning worship. This is a song I wrote for (more words here). Let us prepare our hearts for worship.
Pastor Jacqueline Duhart: Seasoned General Assembly attenders, first timers, friends, allies and guest welcome to General Assembly worship. Thank you for rising early to be here, with all of us. My name is Pastor Jacqueline. On behalf of your Friday morning worship team welcome to Friday morning church. Unitarian Universalism, is a faith movement that aspires to affirm the divine spark in each human being. We endeavor to have a felt sense and an intellectual knowing of the powerful spiritual connections that bind those of us in this room one to another, to all human beings beyond this room and to our mother earth. To embody these welcome words and to send them to those who are not here, I invite you to send a heart wave. A heart wave looks like this. You place both hands on your heart. With the hand that is on top, you throw a wave. Please rise in body and or spirit and throw 3 heart waves, sending them in different directions and with intention. Thank you and welcome. Let us open our entire beings to worship and being with each other. Here. Now.
Rev. Sofia Betancourt: "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"
Call to Worship
Karen Eng: Responsive Reading: "Come, Come Whoever You Are"
Karen Eng, Ancestors’ Candle Words: We light this candle to invite the spirits of those who came before us. This flame holds the stories of many generations. They come from all parts of our earth, from many communities and cultures. Individually and collectively we are the living manifestation of stories we have never heard. We honor our personal lineages and the lineage of humankind. May this bright light remind us that we are here because our ancestors were here, we welcome their energies, and we carry their hopes and dreams forward.
Karen Eng, Black Lives Matter Candle Words: We light this candle to point the way toward the fire that burns within us as we rage against black lives that were victims of police violence. In the words of Rev. Howard Thurman, may this flame remind us to “ keep fresh before us the moments of our high resolve; in good times or in tempests, may we not forget that to which our lives are committed.”
Karen Eng, Chalice Lighting Words: We light the flame of our chalice, to remind us that love is the doctrine of our faith tradition, service is our prayer. One hope of our Unitarian Universalist vision and mission is to teach the fragile art of hospitality.
Susan (with piano accompaniment quietly underneath): Let us sing together to bless the lighting of our candles and chalice. Our opening hymn, When We Are Gathered, was written by UU musician Grace Lewis McClaren. The British tune soars on the last phrase; our song-leaders will sing the first verse so you can hear the tune and a lower harmony. Then I will invite all to please rise in body and or spirit and lift your voices in singing both verses.
Congregational Singing: "When We Are Gathered," Singing the Living Tradition #359
Rev. Mitra Rahnema: Persians are fantastic at hospitality. Come to our home and it will be your home. We will care, protect, and give you a place to rest. We are also good guests—we need nothing and will offer lots of compliments. This I knew. Born and raised in the United States I believed it was just my family, meaning the rest of the world was not like that. I subtly learned that the institutions and culture of society did not want me here. From an early age, whispers of “go back” bounced around in the ether of my mind—although my child’s mind did not understand what that meant.
When I became an awkward teenager—confused and angry by the discrepancies—I just wanted out! Seeking anyplace but here I became an exchange student in New Zealand.
That first night at dinner, my host family used their nice dishes and served a lovely meal. All was orderly. Then, when I got up to help clear the table, a plate slipped from my hands and shattered across the kitchen floor. The world came crashing down with that plate—I couldn’t fake this—I was so scared, unable to fix it, unsure how these people would react, what does it say of me, my country, which country? Is it true—we just destroy things?
Hearing the crash, the mom flew into the kitchen, barely looking at the broken plate, rushing right up to me, took my hands, looked in my eyes, and said please don’t worry about it. She made the world whole again. Then, together we cleaned up the mess.
She put love first. She did not look at the chards on the floor and ask, “how did this happen?” She did not make a policy to make sure it never happened again, nor did she tell me to step aside as she dealt with the mess. She walked directly to me to let me know it was okay. I could come into her home break her plates and we would still be in relationship. She would offer her open heart of hospitality no matter what.
Hospitality is not about hosting a stranger. Hospitality is about recognizing the other, welcoming relationship first. We do this with our manner, facilities, culture, and most of all our heart. People arrive to our congregational homes uncertain, worried, curious, wanting something different for their lives. People seeking kindness, redemption, peace, purpose, maybe even a place to matter. We are hospitable when we mean it when we say those Persian words: “come, come, whoever you”—share some food, and break our plates. Or start a rally, demand change, be part of the uprising. Your life matters. We are building a new way.
My night in a faraway land shifted my life because I now had experiences of people who would recognize my existence. I would no longer stand for the whispers of rejection telling me to go away, or the messages that you are inherently bad or inadequate. I could seek, expect, demand relationship based hospitality—because I knew it was possible.
Such as seventeen years later when a woman at a restaurant on the coast of Oregon refused to make sandwiches for me and my partner—saying “I can’t serve you people. It’s against what I believe.” We would be empowered by our knowing there was another world—communities of people who are whole-heartedly creating pockets of hospitality—and that’s not where we want to spend our money anyway. If we break plates, get angry, and even disappoint others—We Exist.
You’re not sure who you are or if people care, you who have become all twisted up by societies oppression, do not despair, here is a place to land—Come come whoever you are—come break our plates and other fantastic things—let us be on this revolutionary caravan together. Please join us in singing the words of Persian poet Jelal al-Din Rumi and the music of the Rev. Dr. Lynn Ungar.
Short transitional interlude: "Come, Come Whoever You Are"
Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong: What would a motherless child know about hospitality? After all, don’t we all need a good role model growing up to show us the way?
My maternal grandmother, or “Ama,” as we call her in Chinese, grew up in an orphanage in China. She was the daughter of a concubine but I thought she made it up because it sounded all too Joy Luck Clubby to me. Down to eating porridge by the steps of the orphanage. Really? I can’t even imagine that level of suffering and being brought into such an inhospitable world. All she could say was thank God the Presbyterian orphanage took her in and thank God she met my grandfather.
“Ang Kong” or grandfather brought Ama to the Philippines to start a new life. Apparently, neither of them took OWL because they ended up having 12 kids! Needless to say, they couldn’t afford to raise all of them, so they gave 4 away and 2 died anyway, so they were left with half of what they started out with, my mom being the last child they kept. Unfortunately, Ang-Kong died in his early 50s, leaving Ama to raise 6 kids all by herself. I never even knew Ang-Kong. I just knew Ama had such enviable strength, I kept thinking to myself, I want what she has. It must be all that porridge she ate up until the day she died. Fortunately, she fed us more when we visited her during the summer time as in the works—seafood and delicious fresh fruit. She had the hospitality thing down by giving us what she never received herself.
Was she rich? By material standards, far from it! She owned a catering business and provided room and board. But these were financially disastrous endeavors. I wonder if it was because every time someone came to her house to ask for food, she fed them but forgot to charge them. Every time someone asked to stay at her place, there was always room at the inn.
I remember feeling resentful when a homeless woman named Susan came asking for food. I thought, “What right does she have mooching from a poor woman like Ama?” I would’ve told her to scram if I wasn’t so darn shy at the time!
In hindsight, what Ama was doing was showing me without using words what faith and hospitality is all about. It’s feeding the hungry, providing shelter to those who are houseless, serving the poor, telling the orphans they’re not forgotten. It’s giving away what she never had growing up. For Ama, showing hospitality was not a matter of how you fold your napkins or something you can tweet on #MarthaStewart. Hospitality was a matter of life and death. It’s a question of survival.
My grandmother, Ama, was truly a rich person. She was generous with her compassion, and boundless in her hospitality. I still wonder where she learned it from, but I am eternally grateful that I am not a grandmotherless child so I can learn from the Master Hospitality Provider. Let us sing once again Come Come Whoever You Are.
Short transitional interlude: "Come, Come Whoever You Are"
Rev. Sofia Betancourt: Please join with me in the spirit of prayer and meditation. Let us answer this invitation to come together just as we are by breathing together in a time of silent reflection.
Rev. Sofia Betancourt: Spirit of Holiness and Mystery of Life, we come together this morning with our hearts open to the possibilities of a full and joyful welcome in community.
We open our spirits in worship knowing that our acts of welcome and inclusion, our openness to one another, our leaning into relationship, our commitments to revere the inherent worth and dignity of each person and all beings are acts that heal our communities and strengthen the world.
It is ours to create a revolutionary caravan of welcome, ours to return to loving relationship time and again.
Help us to recognize that radical hospitality remains a matter of life and death.
Help us to understand that our very spirits require the sacredness of being seen, and that we in our turn can offer such balm to the spirits of all those we meet on life’s journey.
Together help us to build communities, congregations, and movements of those who would be love and justice bearers in the world. Together help us to recognize the very wholeness that comes with each individual we welcome at our tables.
There will be moments when something precious is broken, moments when we fear we ourselves have too little to share, moments when we long for someone—a mother, grandmother, auntie, teacher or friend—to show us the way. Help us to lean on one another, to know that we are enough. Help us to answer the call to build a new way together.
Let us move toward a radical hospitality so that none will be left seeking at the door.
Let our souls be filled with the blessing of welcome, welcome, welcome.
Amen, Ashe, and Blessed Be.
Singing Seated Response
"Gathered Here In the Mystery of the Hour," Singing the Living Tradition #389
Pastor Jacqueline Duhart: Knock. Knock. (Sound effect from drums) “Jackie, it’s 5:30, that’s Brother Sam, he is always the first to get here. Please see to the door. He knows to set up the chairs for dinner.” “Yes, Nana.”
Knock. Knock. (Sound effect from drums) “Jackie, I bet that’s Erma. She’s right on time. Please see to the door. She enjoys folding our dinner napkins.” “Yes, Nana.”
Knock. Knock. (Sounds from drums)
Knock. Knock. (Sounds from drums)
Knock. Knock. (Sounds from drums)
Every week they came. Most of them came by for dinner, 3 times every week. What was this thing that compelled people to walk for miles to 2737 Guadalupe St, the home where my grandmother lived her entire life. Regardless of the weather they came. Was it just to eat? It was a mystery to my young girl self; these people who my grandmother seemed to know, like and respect. They were blue black, high yellow and, beige, freckled and spotted. Some I thought were beautiful, easy to look at and some had faces that my Nana said only a Mother could love. Some moved slowly, sore and bent from the weight of lives gone every which way but right. Some came in their Sunday go to church outfits and others were eager to receive a clean shirt and a pair of dry socks. The clean shirts were always plaid and the white socks were a men’s large, and both were purchased by me and my grandmother at the dollar store. Some wore too much perfume and others were in need of a long hot bath with a bit of scrubbing here and there. How each soul presented was a minor detail; I knew not to behave in any way that would contribute to anyone feeling uncomfortable and therefore unwelcomed. That was the house rule. All were welcomed.
Knock. Knock. “It must be near 6:30.” That would be Miss Phyllis. She comes the longest distance. Jackie show her to the bathroom so she can wash up. Her fresh apron is right here. She is my right hand in this kitchen. Child she knows how to moan and sing, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” This was my grandmother’s cooking song when she was serious and intentional.
So many came that we borrowed chairs, place settings and various dishes from my Aunts who lived very near my grandmother. My grandmother would say, “Jackie go to Tilly’s, and get those plates that we used last week. She will know the ones I am talking about. Can you find your way through the trail? You are a big girl now. Go to Mammie and borrow that pretty water pitcher. Go to Magnolia and ask for those serving spoons. And so it was! Every week, they came.
There was a sweet dance that we all knew. When every chair in the kitchen was claimed a well-loved, tattered multi purposed card table that rested between the ice box and the stove made its way to the living room. Wooden folding chairs were pulled from beneath our beds. When these seats were claimed, the picnic table and bench that my grandmother jointly owned with her sister was strategically placed on the front porch. There was always enough room. As a child, I thought it was magic, by 6:30 the knocks at the door ceased. How did they know that it was time for Grace. At 6:30 a divine hush fell over this magnificent hovel of a home. Everyone anticipated the warm, gentle and loving sounds of my Nana’s voice. The same words, with the exact same cadence were spoken over every meal. “May this humble meal made holy by those gathered round be a blessing to our joys and sooth our sorrows. Amen.”
These are the memories that live in my ancestral bones and animate my knowing of hospitality. In my grandmother’s home, for a few perfect moments genuine hospitality filled your soul. In those imperfect perfect moments we all knew fellowship, mercy, grace, compassion and tenderness. We were mothered by a holy spirit. The many desperate parts of our human souls wanted for nothing. Each were called by name. All were seen. All were held and loved just the way they were. Soul full hospitality pulls and calls us from miles away through any weather. Soul-full hospitality answers the urgent necessity for each of usto be an integral part of a steadfast beloved community. Soul-full hospitality reminds us that feeling like a motherless child does not have to be a permanent state of being. Soul-full hospitality brings us into the presence of mystery wonder and awe. It nurtures a new way. Ashay.
Rev. Jacqueline Duhart: The story in my family is that Let Us Break Bread Together was a code song of the Underground Railroad. When a runaway slave heard this song coming from a home on the Underground Railroad they knew that there was a good chance that they would be welcomed and that their basic physical needs would be cared for. Let us rise in body and or spirit and sing this closing song in the spirit of caring for our neighbors.
"Let Us Break Bread Together," Singing the Living Tradition #406
Karen Eng: Hospitality is to keep before us our highest resolve.
Rev. Mitra Rahnema: hospitality is a revolutionary caravan.
Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong: hospitality is a matter of life and death.
Rev. Sofia Betancourt: hospitality is filling our souls with the blessing of welcome, welcome, welcome
Pastor Jacqueline Duhart: hospitality blesses our joys, sooths our sorrows and paves a way to a new way. Go forth from this place and bless another with soul-full hospitality.
Throw a heart wave.