You are invited to join us in the many ways we live out our liberal faith in our beloved congregational home. For almost a century — we are embarking upon our 96th church year — we have gathered together in Santa Monica to enrich our lives, tend to each other’s spirits, and make a positive contribution to our world. We are a part of a much older and larger movement of congregations that have practiced radical welcome for centuries. Our freethinking Unitarian forbearers affirmed religious pluralism and rejected dogma and creeds. They received new knowledge like “angels from heaven” and promoted the dignity and worth of every person. Our embracing Universalist ancestors affirmed universal love and rejected eternal damnation and exclusion. They believed that religion should celebrate life and liberal faith should open hearts to love divine. We Unitarian Universalists continue these traditions of radical inclusion in many ways such as being intentional about how we welcome visitors and guests, nurturing multiculturalism in our community, and working to dismantle racism and other forms of oppression within ourselves and in the larger world to create the beloved community.
Our congregational theme for the month of September is “Welcome.” It can be broadly defined as “to greet hospitably and with courtesy or cordiality” and “to be received gladly into one’s presence or companionship.” We can think of welcome in terms of inclusion of people and multiculturalism in community spaces and we can also consider it in terms of the ways in which we are each open to receive the present moment, unexpected change, new insight, difference, self-acceptance, forgiveness, or many other dimensions of life. We might think of it as one possible disposition towards ourselves, others, and the realities of life. Are we growing in terms of our capacities to be consistently hospitable, open, kind, loving, and courteous or do we struggle to show up in ways that model our greatest values and highest ideals? Might religious community be a good place for us to practice what it means to be not just inclusive but radically welcoming?
Our friends at Soul Matters invite us to reflect more deeply on this congregational theme in our committee meetings and small groups of the church with the following compelling questions:
- What’s one of the biggest changes you’ve welcomed into your life that few people know about? Who surprisingly tried to stand in the way of that change? Who surprisingly supported the change?
- Has welcoming change gotten easier or harder as you’ve grown older?
- What do you know now about welcoming in the present moment that you didn’t know when you were younger?
- Tell me about a time that you welcomed a new piece of music into your life? Why was it helpful that this piece of music “knocked on our door” at just the right time?
- Have you ever welcomed in a moment so fully that you suddenly felt one with it?
- Tell me about self-acceptance: What part of you is the hardest for you to welcome with open arms?
- What would you tell someone younger than yourself about welcoming in grief?
- What part of you do you wish your family of origin would have welcomed more enthusiastically?
- We all have past friendships we wish we could have taken deeper, that were cut short because we moved or other life events took priority. If you could welcome one of those unfulfilled friendships back into your life, which one would it be?
- What is your third favorite way to welcome in joy?
Pastoral care is available from our dedicated team of Pastoral Associates. You may confidentiality request care by emailing our Pastoral Care Team Co-Chairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the church office.
Let’s welcome this new church year with enthusiasm, creativity, generosity, faith, hope, love, and joy!
Yours in love and ministry,
Rev. Jeremiah Lal Shahbaz Kalendae