“Enter” is a command, while “Welcome” is an invitation. In our beloved hymn, we command people to Enter! Rejoice! Come in! I love that hymn, and yet I wonder about what comes next.
I asked somebody close to me what they thought of what it meant to be really welcomed somewhere. They said, invited in without judgement.
Once you have been invited, and you took the time to show up, will you be welcomed without judgement? Or merely greeted?
When somebody rings my doorbell I am friendly and greet them. Oh, but if they make it past the doorway, over the threshold—if they are invited to come in and bide awhile—well, that is the difference between an invitation or greeting and a full welcome.
At UUFE we invite people to visit and often they do show up. If they are made to feel welcome, which is to say, comfortable, a part of the whole, we have a new member. This month’s theme is welcome and I think about this quite a lot.
The Statue of Liberty does not invite you to stop by; it says “Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Now that is a welcome. You can expect to make it past the front door into a comfy chair and be treated like….a person.
I think about the work we do in the sanctuary coalition. We want our neighbors to really be welcomed, not tentatively or conditionally.
As September gets underway I will be thinking about welcome. It is a noun, an adjective, and a verb. To a word-person like me, that alone is exciting! But in any aspect of our lives, when have we been treated cordially as opposed to being welcomed? When have we stood beside the golden door, welcoming somebody in? How about making it be a conscious effort, such that when October rolls around with its theme of Courage, we have stories to share of OUTRAGEOUS hospitality? Good luck—I welcome you to the challenge.
In peace with love,