Religious Education News: Understanding Love and Compassion

26 February 2018

As Unitarians, welcoming visitors in an open and inclusive way has always been one our strongest virtues. If we had “commandments” I’m sure one of those would address our hospitality.

As it turns out, I think our welcoming “gene” has multiple levels. First, it connects individuals to families—their own, of course, but to all the others who find First Church to be a welcoming environment.

Beyond that, we know the Church welcomes the community at large. Sort of a “welcome wagon” to all who seek the warmth, comaraderie and benevolence inherent in our guiding principles.

As we approach Celebration Sunday, I wonder if I’ve risen to the challenge of making new families feel welcome here...of making at least one child—perhaps several children—less fearful of being the new kid/s in a religious education classroom.

GIven the recent horrific events in Florida, we should never underestimate the power that one person has among those who are vulnerable. Your very first words and acts of welcome leave an indelible mark.

People remember acts of kindness throughout their entire lives. Every positive encounter, every “welcoming”, has the potential to create a Unitarian sort of future. The old adage “One candle flame can light a million other candles and never be diminished” certainly comes to mind.

Maya Angelou got it right when she wrote, “People will forget what you said...people will forget what you did...but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Today, in the face of corrupt governments, violence and glaring inequality worldwide, freedom seekers still come to the United States for safety, shelter and an improved quality of life. So many arrive as strangers, unable at first to fit in. That is where we come in! At this very moment, I am so proud of our congregation—friends and strangers alike—who have come together to welcome and protect a family in need.

Hospitality starts at home and here at First Church. Like the proverbial pebble dropped in a pond, it can moves outward toward the larger community. By embracing our faith, I have come to learn more about my own theology. In part, it is quite simple. The world should be an extension of what we value in our homes...we should welcome strangers and seek ways to extend our hospitality.

This year, more than ever, it is so difficult not to despair over the repetition of unspeakable terror and tragedy. Not to mention the disturbing discourse from so many of our leaders.

In Jewish folklore, there is a wonderful story about a man who stood before God, heartbroken by the pain and injustice in the world.

“Dear God,” he cried. “Look at all the suffering, the distress, the anguish in your world. Why don’t you do something—send help!” God responded, “I did send help! I sent you.”

We Unitarians are compassionate people. As we celebrate our founding and our unique gifts on March 4, let us always remember to act with love and kindness and welcome the stranger.