Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River : A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults
Main Content

Activity 1: What Is Culture? What Is Hospitality?

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Write the quote and poem from Leader Resource 1, Culture and Hospitality on newsprint.
  • Optional: Copy Leader Resource 1, Culture and Hospitiality for all participants.

Description of Activity

Say, in these or similar words:

One of the most common ways we experience both hospitality and culture is through food. Specific foods, the ways they are prepared and consumed, and who is invited to share meals together can all demonstrate histories and cultural traditions, sometimes centuries old. In families, we can offer welcome and acceptance with food, such as when a new relative at a shared meal is deeply touched by the inclusion of food representing their cultural background. Other food experiences can highlight painful differences, such as when a family member adopts beliefs that preclude eating foods once enjoyed together with the family. Anyone who has participated in a meal that involves multiple faiths or cultures will have encountered this most basic challenge: Can we all eat together? Shared meals invite us to become aware of one another's holy days and holidays, as well as the theologies and spiritual practices that restrict consuming specific foods. We also must consider how to accommodate others' needs while at the same time holding on to our own values and beliefs.

Invite participants to think of a meal they attended which highlighted differences in cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, or other values among those gathered. Offer examples: a multi-ethnic potluck dinner at a community center, church, or school; a rite of passage of a friend from a different cultural background; traveling in a different country. Ask them to recall their feelings at the time. Were they excited, before the meal? Nervous? Worried? Curious? Well prepared?

Allow a few moments for individual reflection. Then, invite participants to turn to a partner and briefly share their stories-the specifics of the meal, and their feelings at the time, and any ways their feelings about the experience may have changed or new reflections that have emerged over time. Was there something which once caused anxiety that no longer does?

Allow pairs to talk for 10 minutes. Then, re-gather the large group. Display or distribute the quotation and the poem. Suggest that both describe cultural practices of sharing food while also offering them as metaphors for cultural diversity and hospitality. Invite participants to share their thoughts about culture and hospitality as reflected in the quote and poem. Do they offer any insights for congregational life?