What Does “Welcoming” Look Like?
Jennifer Shawker, Communications and Activities Coordinator, Unity of SA
I really like our new mission, vision, and core values at Unity Church of San Antonio. That is indeed fortunate for me; because of my role in coordinating the communications of our CommUNITY, I work with them a great deal.
I think, by now, most people are at least somewhat familiar with our new mission and vision. We say them every Sunday, they are on our website, and they are beginning to make their way into our publications. Our core values? I’m not as certain about how familiar people are with them. So, for your reference, they are: CommUNITY, Welcoming, Love, Empowering, and Transforming.
Soon, we’ll have more information for you as to how we, as a community, demonstrate these core values. I feel comfortable addressing Welcoming to an extent here, due to a great opportunity available for you, right now, to demonstrate this core value. In a way you might not have thought about as being particularly spiritual before.
What is it to be Welcoming? I invite you to look up the word in the dictionary, as I did. It’s more than simply warmly greeting someone as they arrive. It’s also finding the person or a situation as agreeable. Sometimes people don’t present themselves that way, but that matters not in Unity – we uphold the True Nature of all people, whole, complete, one with the One Power and Presence. Welcoming defined is also to give a person full rights. For example, all are welcome to join us and engage in the full life of our CommUNITY. One only has to read our Statement of Inclusivity to discover that:
Unity Church of San Antonio is an inclusive spiritual community. We welcome, affirm, and uphold everyone, appreciating how the One Presence expresses in wondrous diversity. We welcome into the full life of our spiritual community persons of every ethnicity, language, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, economic status, occupation and faith background. We bless and honor all committed relationships and families, and welcome all who genuinely desire to celebrate, study, and serve with us.
But there’s even MORE to welcoming than greeting someone, finding them pleasant, and giving them full rights. Welcoming also encompasses hospitality.
Offering hospitality is most definitely a spiritual endeavor, and has been for a long time. Consider monasteries. It is estimated the first Christian monasteries were established sometime in the fourth century. Buddhists – the first century. Hindus – well, I couldn’t find an answer online, but to be sure just as long, or longer. These are all different faiths, but most monasteries had some main generalities in purpose. They were spiritual communities. As I learned when I recently read the book, To Know as We are Known by Parker J. Palmer, monasteries basically had three main ways of being in community: practicing their faith, studying their faith, and providing hospitality. Sound familiar? Check our mission statement.
Monastic study did not often involve a typical teacher pupil relationship. They more often taught and learned from each other by consensus. (This should sound familiar, too, if you have ever taken a Unity class.) However, as we know, sometimes the path to a consensus is a bit rocky. “Creative tension” as Rev. Ron Fritts puts it, would often arise. In those days, there were no literature or classes on non-violent communication. The book I of the Storm that we recently studied would not be written for centuries.
But they managed, anyway, because of a specific reason: they offered each other hospitality. They served each other, and sometimes the communities around them. This offering of hospitality was and still is a living and breathing expression of Divine Love, bringing them closer together, unifying them in purpose, and harmonizing their relationships. Welcoming, and especially the aspect thereof that is hospitality, promotes our Unity of SA vision of a peaceful, spiritually transformed world. This is evidenced by the impact of hospitality in early spiritual communities.
With today’s pace of life, perhaps we as individuals don’t get to offer much hospitality to others, or even our loved ones, in our homes. It’s common for meals to be made faster now – food from the grocery store practically prepares itself! If you are like me, and have a child, meals may sometimes be quick, in order to get to the next activity our kids are involved in.
But once a month, for a few hours, you could be living our core value of Welcoming by serving on our Social Host Team. We have multiple openings for people to serve on this important team for our spiritual community. You would promote peace and love in perhaps the most time-honored way possible, providing hospitality in the form of light refreshments after church in our CommUNITY Center. And you would certainly get to know many of the wonderful people at Unity of SA. Social Hour is a popular event in our CommUNITY! Click here to contact me, I’d love to talk with you about joining the team.
Whether or not you feel called to serve as a Social Host after reading this, I hope you’ll take away that wherever you are, an offering of hospitality is an out picturing of our Divine Identity. To give hospitality is to be Divine Love, no matter if it’s cooking a four course meal, or offering a simple glass of water. I know I’m going to try and remember that the next time I don’t feel like getting up off the couch to make dinner. I’ll remember, because after all, I now understand that hospitality has been supporting a vision of a spiritually transformed, peaceful world – since ancient times.