Across the Threshold: The Experience of Welcome

Published by FirstUUAdmin on

July 26, Virtual Service

We want to thank guest musician and speaker Adhamh Roland for providing much of the music as well as insight and context during this service. Adhamh is a seminary student at a UU affiliated institution as he pursues hospice chaplaincy. As we consider what it is to be a welcoming community, let us listen as he shares the gift of himself.

Support Adhamh Roland at https://www.paypal.me/AdhamhRoland

Visit https://www.AdhamhRoland.com to learn more about his music.


Our opening words this day are “Come, Come”, adapted from Rumi by Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Leslie Takahashi.

Come, come, whoever you are
Come with your hurts, your imperfections, your places that feel raw and exposed.
Come, come, whoever you are
Come with your strengths that the world shudders to hold
Come with your wild imaginings of a better world,
Come with your hopes that it seems no one wants to hear.

Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving
We will make a place for you,
We will build a home together.
Ours is no caravan of despair.
We walk together;
Come, yet again come.

Our chalice lighting words are “Bold and Courageous Together” adapted from Rev. Erika A. Hewitt.

The word courage comes from the Latin cor, which means heart. According to poet Mark Nepo, the original use of the word courage meant to stand by one’s core: a “striking concept that reinforces the belief found in almost all traditions that living from the Center is what enables us to face whatever life has to offer.”

To “encourage” means to hearten; to impart strength and confidence. This is our work, as a religious community: to encourage one another; to be bold in engaging the world around us, as well as what scares us internally; to give one another the confidence and heart to live as fully as possible.

With full hearts, we are here to affirm our relationships with one another; to recognize our agency and our connective power; and to accept our responsibility to be bold and courageous.

We light this chalice, symbol of all that we are, all that we have done together, and all that we will be as our shared ministry encourages those within, and beyond, our walls.

As part of our commitment to pursuing the Welcoming Renewal status through the Unitarian Universalist Association, our congregation hosts two services a year that are intentionally dedicated to examining and centering LGBT+ issues. These services for 2020 were planned for June, to coincide with Pride month, and October, to correspond with the Ozarks Pridefest. 

As you know, many things planned for 2020 have had to be changed, including our Sunday morning services. As protests demanding racial justice began to emerge across the country, we veered to center those conversations. Love is not a pie, and justice cannot exist in silos, but the calendar and our time together each Sunday are finite resources, and in those moments, the struggle in support of our black siblings needed our time and attention. 

Today we want to take a moment and reflect on the deep relationship between the June celebration of Pride and the struggle for racial justice. Pride, nowadays, mostly means rainbow flags and the police carefully shutting down cross streets so that well manicured floats (with a surprising number of corporate logos) can pass. 

But Pride is celebrated in June because it was created to celebrate the progress for LGBT+ liberation that began with the Stonewall Uprisings in New York in June of 1969. And those uprisings were led by trans women of color, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. The gay clubs and bars were sanctuaries for the marginalized LGBT+ communities, their only welcoming haven. But these bars were targeted by police, who repeatedly harassed, terrorized, beat up, and arrested marginalized people. As Marsha, one of the instigators of the Stonewall Uprisings, said: “We just were saying no more police brutality. And we had enough of police harassment in the Village and other places.” These uprisings were the threshold moment that ultimately inspired and propelled the movement for LGBT+ rights. 

As we reflect on what role our community has in offering welcome and sanctuary, may we look with gratitude to our brave siblings, including so many siblings of color, who have put great effort into creating, upholding, and valuing the various safe harbors that have sustained so many LGBT+ people.

Our closing words are Marginal Wisdom by Leslie Takahashi

They teach us to read in black and white.
Truth is this—the rest false.
You are whole—or broken.
Who you love is acceptable—or not.
Life tells its truth in many hues.
We are taught to think in either/or.
To believe the teachings of Jesus—OR Buddha.
To believe in human potential—OR a power beyond a ­single will.
I am broken OR I am powerful.
Life embraces multiple truths, speaks of both, and of and.
We are taught to see in absolutes.
Good versus evil.
Male versus female,
Old versus young,
Gay versus straight.
Let us see the fractions, the spectrum, the margins.
Let us open our hearts to the complexity of our worlds.
Let us make our lives sanctuaries, to nurture our many identities. The day is coming when all will know
That the rainbow world is more gorgeous than monochrome,
That a river of identities can ebb and flow over the static, stubborn rocks in its course,
That the margins hold the center.