Saturday, July 11, 2009

What it Means to be a Welcoming Community

I've often had discussions with other UUs about "where we should draw the line" about welcoming people into our congregations. No problem with gays, they agree, but what about ... ?

Go ahead, fill in the blank. There are plenty of categories of "those people" out there who give us pause.

Forty years ago, gays and lesbians were in that category. Even within the UUA and its predecessor denominations.

So how do we determine who we should welcome, and who we should not?

My own answer, in a nutshell is: Yes, we welcome all people -- but not all behaviors.

So, would I welcome a registered sex offender into the church? So long as they agree to specific limits, I would say yes. We often have prejudices about what sex offenders are like, and fail to recognize how isolating them can actually make things worse.

Would I let a professional dominatrix teaching Religious Education, or providing lay pastoral care? Hey, I happen to know a few prodommes, and I can tell you two things. First, they are great educators and counselors. Second, they know how to keep things private, including and especially the facts of their occupation.

What about someone who interrupts worship services and committee meetings, or chases after individuals during social hour, demanding that his grievances (whatever they are) be heard? Clearly there are some people who, for whatever reason, have difficulty understanding that there is a time and a place for everything. We can do what we can to remind them of that fact -- but if they refuse to heed that advice, then we're not obligated to put their desires above the need of community members to feel safe when they come into our shared space.

It is that ideal of community, of welcoming people as they are while challenging one another to grow and change, receiving diverse gifts and responding to diverse needs, which we must always keep in mind. May it always be so.

1 comment: