This morning was slow at work, but then I got a couple of interesting phone calls and the gears are slowly turning again. It's time to hunt down files, delegate assignments, design publication covers, etc. Fun stuff. I do much prefer to be busy at work. Downtime is good, but it can also be a little soul-sucking, and it's hard to get out of the inertia of slowness. Things have accelerated today and now it's a matter of finding the right balance. That's how it is with food, individual exercises, sleep, everything. But that's not why I'm here.
A quick note as I finish my lunch break:
I just finished reading the quick second hallmark of a healthy church, according to Tom Owen-Towle. The first hallmark, if I didn't make it clear yesterday, was "Occupy Holy Ground." That chapter talked about how UUism is not a social club but is a true religion and must embrace its holiness. That holiness is rooted in love and community.
The second hallmark is "Welcome All Souls." This speaks directly to one of my favorite UU principles, and one of the very hardest to buy into sometimes. We believe in the worth and dignity of every being. (Even the 'bad' ones.) It's the exceptions to this rule that make it difficult. But this chapter doesn't tackle the tough Hitler questions. Instead it points out that churches should extend warm hospitality. It's a tenet of Muslim faith, and it's something the author believes has fallen out of practice in much of the West. The author argues that "three main psycho-social dynamics are in play when newcomers enter our church gates" (12). Namely, these are issues of
- Inclusion - Will I be welcome? What will be required of me if I join? Who is missing from this sanctuary and why? For my church, we're missing ethnic and racial minorities and, like most UU churches, we're missing people of a lower socioeconomic class. We DO have social misfits and people from relatively diverse religious backgrounds. We skew high age-wise, but our young adult and child populations aren't completely absent.
- Control - How does this community run? How is power wielded and distributed? Who has influence, and who is helpless? - My church is not big. We have maybe 100 members, and that's just the official number on the books. We have social matriarchs and patriarchs. We have team/committee members and people who seem to be involved in everything. In the past there have been struggles where some factions have felt underrepresented in church leadership. We continue to tackle this problem head-on and have, I think, developed a culture of being much more proactively inclusive.
- Affection - Is the church warm or cold? Is there an inner circle or an "interweaving spiral of leaders?" Would they miss me if I missed three weeks of church in a row? - What struck me first about my church is that its members are genuinely warm. They may be New Englandy and WASPish at times, but their hearts are as big as Texas. There's an inner circle, but that's because people have been here for decades. I've been at the church for just over two years, and I already feel like one of the inner circle. It is a more permeable membrane than some may fear. And yes, people would miss me if I were gone for weeks at a time. That makes me feel good.
Let us be (in my church and in society in general) the way I wanted to start this blog post and the way my dear minister envisions our community - Radically Inclusive. Love everyone. Welcome everyone. All worthy of respect, dignity, love. Even - especially - when it's difficult. Amen.
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