THE WELCOME CIRCLE
We hold this truth to be self-evident:
That ALL PEOPLE are created equal
WELCOME TSILUGI WITAM BIENVENIDOS SWAAGAT WILLKOMMEN HUAN YING MARHABA BIENVENUE DOBRO
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BACKGROUND written by J. Elliott Cisneros
If we build a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or a temple we can surely accomplish good things: a place where people can find comfort in sharing their beliefs, values, and culture openly; a place where relationships and families can learn, love and find fellowship; a place that reaches out in support of those in need in the larger community--perhaps serving social justice; a place where those who are oppressed can find safety and understanding.
And, when I've seen a sign in front of a faith community, intending to be inclusive, that read “Everyone is Welcome” I have noticed a sadness. How welcome, truly, am I as a Jewish person in a church? As a Hindu in a synagogue? A Buddhist in mosque? An atheist in any of these? A queer person in a faith community that views queerness as an abomination? As a person of color in a predominately white faith community?
What would it mean to create a community based in the sacredness of genuine welcome and not based on sharing common group membership--other than our common humanity? What if our spiritual sensibility shifted from prioritizing, instead of similarity, welcoming those who hold different beliefs, cultures, backgrounds, colors, and experiences?
The Welcome Circle is an opportunity to come together to explore and celebrate what it would mean to shift our beliefs and practice so that all were, and felt, truly and deeply welcomed (as determined by others and not by our good intentions). What if each person knew they belonged from their experience rather than in my insistence that they ARE welcome! What if no one felt the need to leave, not just their beliefs and religion at the door, but their race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, language, nationality, social economic class, and personality?
Such a place would invite us to face the history and presence of our faiths’ classist, racist, patriarchal, violence and oppression and our collusion and participation in these institutions. I would be invited to ask “who is present and who is not present and why?” If I am in a faith “community” that is predominantly white, as one example, do I know why? If I am white, can I hold myself accountable for this? Am I sure that it has nothing to with me? If people who identify as queer are not comfortable being out in my faith “community”--do we really have a community? What if we were to hold a simple definition of a community as a place where everyone is truly welcome, seen, heard, and celebrated (not just tolerated or included)? And what if this definition were at the very heart of sacredness itself?
Who is welcome and who is not welcome at our “table” and especially at “my table” is worth asking. This leads us to the threshold of my own inner being. What are the parts of myself I make room for and the parts I do not? If all parts are not welcome within me, what is the possibility of my truly welcoming, gladly receiving, all people in community?
The sacredness of welcome comes from the reality of our connection to all things and all people. This connection gives us comfort and strength but also challenges us by expanding who we thought we were...guiding us to learn from, honor, and value our amazing diversity.
The Welcome Circle is a component of: