We’ve been talking a lot about making others welcome. It’s at the heart of our mission as a parish and our vision for our new building.
What about this question: do we feel welcome?
I know what it is like to be in the midst of a group and feel a bit of an outsider. I get involved in groups that are not really my expertise but I’m keen to extend myself and contribute as much as I can. Often I have the question: do I belong here? Is anybody really interested that I’m here, or could they carry on fine without me? Do they care?
Even family can feel like this. Or church.
And then there’s a word or a gesture that tells me I should stop fretting. And just get on with being who I am in the midst of these people. Make the people and the group the focus.
It’s important to talk about this because, in relation to churches, I’ve found that most people feel this way, most if not all, sometimes at least. We all can feel outsiders and think everyone else is fine.
Community, I am beginning to understand, is made through a skill I have never learned or valued: the ability to pass time with people you do not and will not know well, talking about nothing in particular, with no end in mind, just to build trust, just to be sure of each other, just to be neighbourly. A community is not something that you have, like a camcorder or a breakfast nook. No, it is something you do. And you have to do it all the time.
There’s something here that relates to the old saying that what you get out of things depends on what you put in. But it’s not based so much on what we do, or what others do for us, but on being in the midst. Doing and active caring are important to a group – all the valuable things we can do, that some people are really good at, different people for different things. But they are not at the heart of belonging: being ourselves in relationship is; being, and valuing being with the others around us.
Hallelujah I/you belong! Stay well connected.
Rangimarie Peace Shalom