Let me share a story with you.
I visited a long-time friend in the hospital yesterday. This friend has a birthday coming up, and she will be 96 years young. I met this friend at a UU fellowship, and she has been a Unitarian Universalist for much of her adult life. We talked about her children who live in a different part of the US, and how neither of them attend a UU congregation, to her disappointment. She told me the following story,
My daughter did visit the UU church in her area
and two women she met asked for her number,
but then never called her. So she’s kind of done with that.
I have to be honest here. It saddened me, as it did my friend.
I’ll tell you another story from my own experience. I attended a UU congregation back in 1993. I filled out the guest book or card, whatever it was at the time. I added my phone number and within a week I received a call from one of the members, thanking me for my visit and asking if I had any questions about the church. That call, from a person I didn’t know, was what brought me back a 2nd and 3rd time. I eventually became a member of that congregation and began my path as a Unitarian Universalist.
These two stories are not that different from the other except in the spirit of hospitality. If you’ve been around church life for a while, no doubt you’ve heard radical hospitality spoken of. Maybe you even have a story of your own about how you were, or not, welcomed in.
All life stems from relationship – I have preached this many times in my life. It is the foundation of joy for me. It is in relationship to other humans and all sentient beings I share this planet with, that I find pure grace. The grace to be wholly who I am, faults and all.
It takes some effort to create a space for the forming of relationship. It’s not as simple as it may seem, to make that phone call. Opening ourselves to possible rejection is hard. And yet I encourage it – to risk a little, knowing you may be the one who can pierce through a layer of protection someone has come in with. To have a heart broke open by a stranger’s kindness is sometimes worth a little extra time.
As we approach the holiday season, let us turn our attention to all those who might walk through the doors of our houses of hospitality – because if our church or congregation isn’t that place…I don’t know where else that is.