As we begin the new year together, I want to invite all of you into a conversation about what it means to belong at VUU and what it means to create a welcoming space for people who don’t yet feel they belong, either because they just walked through our doors or perhaps because they haven’t connected with anyone here in a meaningful way yet. I often hear UU’s longing to create a community that is “vibrant and diverse” without really considering the complexity of what that means or how things would be the same or different in order to get there. I think we often get stuck between longing for the things that make us feel a sense of belonging and the perhaps very different things that make someone else feel at home. We forget that the very friends we know and love when we walk in the doors are complete strangers (as are we) to new people. We forget that the music we love, or the kinds of readings or sermons we love, or rituals and practices, may feel strange, uncomfortable, and even odd to someone new. These often appeal to people who are like us already–our age, our gender, our similar background, our sexual orientation or cultural experiences–and are simultaneously not appealing or engaging to people who may not share those identities with us.
Creating an experience on Sunday that speaks to a wide range of people and feels vibrant in more than one way means, actually, that there will some aspects of the service that don’t “speak” to you but hopefully do speak to someone else in the room, inviting them to find a place here and also make this their home. There may be many rooms in this home that serve different needs, but in the great gathering room of our sanctuary on Sunday, I invite you to help us make room for those who may share your core values but respond to different kinds of music or ritual or stories.
Look around and see if you can identify some new faces who might need to be welcomed into our gathering space, who might like to be introduced to some other folks. Find out what engaged them in the service and what they are looking for if they come back. As I work with our staff to plan and lead services and programs, I am including some elements which I hope speak to the needs of a longer term UU member to feel a sense of belonging and to the needs of others who may not yet know a beloved UU hymn or who may not have memorized the chalice lighting and extinguishing words – who may not know what our many unspoken norms at VUU mean but are perhaps looking for a place that feels like it could be a spiritual home, given time.
This is another part of offering “space and grace” and recognizing that we move at the speed of trust. If you have been a UU for more than 10 years, or perhaps even 5, making room for new people also means making room for new ways of being together. Let’s practice the kind of hospitality that puts our guests at ease and considers their needs first, knowing that our have been met and will be met again.
Blessings this week as we move toward cooler weather (right???) –Rev. Sarah
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