Each service at Church begins with the words "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." Squares included. Last month my thoughts focused on the first part of St. Paul's motto, Jesus Guided. This time the subject is the second part of the motto, Intentionally Inclusive. Circles came to mind. Soon I began to see circles everywhere. Of course, the wheels on my wheelchair are one example. Thankfully triangular wheels never caught on.
There's an old song that surfaced in my head, "Will the Circle be Unbroken." I just googled the lyrics and it speaks to the circle of life. But the title on its own is what strikes me. An unbroken circle is definitely not intentionally inclusive. In the neighborhood where I grew up, we had a dear neighbor who looked forward to Thanksgiving every year when she and her husband went to her sister's house for a big, traditional dinner with their family. One year she was annoyed. A niece invited some friends for the holiday feast. Our neighbor expressed her dismay that this Thanksgiving would not be the same -- because there would be "outsiders" present. Now she was a kind-hearted soul, but this was one tradition she did not want changed.
It's easy to feel comfortable with a circle of friends that you've been with for a long time. You can sometimes finish each other's sentences because you know them so well. Try being the new kid on the block who wants to fit in. Though the group may be friendly, the circle often stays closed. The term "clique" could be used, but no one wants to admit they belong to a clique. I encountered cliques at seminary, of all places -- a seminary whose mantra was "community." But the women and men who were training to be tomorrow's spiritual leaders were, after all, women and men. I formed a circle with the students who didn't fit into other circles. Before long, we too were a clique. Ouch.
Like gravity we form bonds with people who share similar interests or experiences. That doesn't sound so bad. Add a desire to be "inclusive" and we may invite in someone new to the group -- someone that we prescreened as a good candidate. Maybe the invitation is casual, or lukewarm. By adding the word "intentionally" to "inclusive" we bump up the expectation to a higher level. Does it mean to go out of our way to be inclusive? Does it mean we invite in those whose interests or experiences differ from ours? Differ to what degree? When does a circle lose its cohesiveness and just fall apart? How does a circle reinvent itself?
Yes, I am all questions and no answers. Chalk it up to the windmills in my mind, going around in circles.
Come to a Gathering this Sunday,
August 7, at 9:00 am.
No matter the weather, it's always the season for renewal. We ponder questions, meditate, share and sing. Join us for a splash of adventure.