Mary Pickard, Welcome Team member
Being respected and being treated well are not the same as having a feeling of belonging.
-- Barb Cederberg
The Welcome Team — otherwise known as greeters or ushers — is reinventing itself at Unity Church. It might not seem obvious. We still hand out orders of service, pass collection plates, and clean up the pews after service. The transformation is happening in our hearts and we hope you will notice in your heart.
The shift is rooted in the church’s desire to become more antiracist and multicultural, to create the Beloved Community, moving the emphasis away from the tactical to the relational to fulfill the Welcome Team’s new mission, “Nurturing Mutual Belonging.”
“Welcome Team work is a spiritual practice and part of our covenant to provide a continuum of care here at Unity,” says Madeline Summers, team coordinator. “Nurturing mutual belonging starts with us as individuals — our own sense of belonging, knowing who we are, what we’re passionate about, and how we might be perceived by others. Then, it extends to our practice among team members.”
Each team now meets 30 minutes before the service to check in, sometimes with a reading or reflection, so members can be grounded and know each other more deeply. By nurturing belonging within each team, we can better nurture belonging beyond to congregants.
More focus is being given to interacting with people, so Welcome Team members aren’t going to be found behind tables anymore. Rather, we are circulating in the Parish Hall engaging in conversation.
That’s not always easy, says Welcome Team member Barb Cederberg, a self-proclaimed introvert. “We want to do things right. We may not do it right, so it inhibits us from trying. How do we have the courage to try and live with the discomfort? Unity Church members have so much generosity, if mistakes are made, we can overcome.”
Barb is passionate about the work. “I can feel where I belong and I can feel where I don’t belong,” says Barb. “Being respected and being treated well are not the same as having a feeling of belonging. I worked in corporate America for many years. I did not acknowledge my spouse, Judy, or that we had children. Nurturing belonging is a feeling of acceptance of self and others. At Unity, I can be myself. How do I encourage others to be themselves?”
“Mutual belonging is more complicated than passing the collection plate or picking up Kleenex boxes,” says Jim Oberly, another Welcome Team member. “I’m an old white guy. I’m conscious of that. You know the images of deacons in the old churches — conveying an air of authority as if to say, ‘your money is safe with us.’ I used to wear a coat and tie. I dress differently now — a sweater and slacks.”
Continues Jim, “When people enter the church, we greeters are likely to make misinformed judgments based on how someone looks. We need to stay open and curious. I do my best to help visitors figure us out — what might be expected during a service, where things are located, how to get more information — and I try to share something of myself in hopes they will share something of themselves with me.”
Nurturing mutual belonging isn’t just for visitors. “It is a good direction for all the groups we have at church,” says Barb. “We should increase our awareness of how the interactions are among us. If someone is standing alone in the Parish Hall, start up a conversation.” She recalls when she was standing in line to greet the ministers and the woman ahead of her looked very sad. “I asked her if she was OK. She had just lost her husband two years earlier – about the time I lost Judy – so we got talking and now we’re good friends.”
Jim has seen the value of mutual belonging in other aspects of his church volunteer work. In recent months, he and his wife have been escorting elderly women to church on Sundays. “As so many people came up to greet and fuss over them, I saw the elders come alive! It made them so happy. How many friends and admirers they have!”
I guess that’s proof that whether we’re on a Welcome Team or not, all congregants are part of nurturing mutual belonging. If you are interested in joining the Welcome Team, contact Madeline Summers.
All church members, including Welcome Team members, are encouraged to take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a tool to help build our self-knowledge so we can develop our personal and congregational capacity for welcoming all. Further, as we move forward in the spirit of transformation, Welcome Teams will be engaging with the Double Helix Model of Faith Formation and Antiracist Multicultural Work to deepen our practice of welcome.
Dayna Kennedy and Paul Rogne Discuss Landmarks on Their Soul Work Journey
Edited by Becky Gonzalez-Campoy, Beloved Community Communications Team
Next to my bathroom mirror I have posted two notes:
And I’m showing up differently. I make sure I’m not doing this work to “save” anybody. I clear out any part of me that is feeling like a “hero” for marching. Now, I listen for what is needed and do what I am able to do. Change begins within me. But so does action. When I am feeling overwhelmed or frozen by the authentic history I am learning, I remember that my white history has given me a weak muscle that I need to exercise to build up stamina. And my white privilege has given me a short attention span — I can turn away when things get tough.… and my life will be affected very little. Moreover, no one holds me accountable. This work is hard to do in isolation. One solution that continues to prove invaluable to me is Recovery from White Conditioning. This group provides me with a community of meaningful support and accountability.
Whether it is a phone bank or calling legislators, I hear the freshness and urgency in the voices of my BIPOC partners. The effects for them are now … and every day. I continue to ask myself, “Why, just because the pigment of our skin is different, do I not feel the same sense of urgency?” After all, as James Baldwin said, it is my soul which is at stake.
We often rely on words for education, self-reflection, and spiritual growth. Art, too, can be a powerful messenger to change how we see ourselves, our community, and the world.
Unity’s antiracism goals inspire my work as the chairperson of the Unity Art Team. We are the group that bring artists to exhibit in the Parish Hall. We also manage over 80 pieces of art in the permanent collection that are displayed throughout the building. A few years ago, we identified the pursuit of Unity’s Ends Statements as something to embrace, especially, “Create a multicultural spiritual home built on authentic relationships” and “Create brave space for racial healing and dismantling dominant culture.” Consequently, the Art Team has deliberately sought to bring greater diversity of art and artists into the Parish Hall and to expand the permanent collection with art representing a multicultural community.
In 2020-21, this led the Art Team to specifically recruit and select artists of color to exhibit in the Parish Hall. The team also has added six new pieces of art to the permanent collection: A weaving by the Karin Weavers, a fine art print by local Latino artist Ricardo Levins Morales, a powerful painting on the theme of immigration by Black artist Simone Spruce, an impressive diptych painting by Heather Friedli whose heritage is Anishinaabe and Mexican, and a painting by local Black artist Rose Smith inspired by her trip to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We hope the addition of more diversity in the art displayed at Unity will have a positive impact on the congregation and visitors to the church. This effort will continue over the coming years.
So come take time to enjoy and reflect on our featured exhibits and permanent collection. Each piece has much to teach us all.
Wednesday, September 22
7:00-8:30 p.m. • Zoom (online)
What does it take to be racially literate and engaged in antiracism in a day-to-day way? Where do we find resources and support in our ongoing learning about systemic racism and the work of dismantling it? Whether you attended previous sessions or are just checking it out now, this program is an easy entry into finding antiracism books, podcasts, and videos, as well as discussion partners for talking about them. Come to choose a resource, sign up for a buddy or small group, and receive discussion guidelines. This program is part of Unity's Finding Our Next Right Action efforts. Questions? Contact Becky Gonzalez-Campoy at email@example.com.
Beloved Community Resources
Next Right Actions
Unity Justice Database
Team Dynamics House of Intersectionality
Anti-Racism Resources in the Unity Libraries Collection
Creative Writers of Color in Unity Libraries
The History of Race Relations and Unity Church, 1850-2005
Beloved Community Staff Team
The Beloved Community Staff Team (BCST) strengthens and coordinates Unity’s antiracism and multicultural work, and provides opportunities for congregants and the church to grow into greater intercultural competency. We help the congregation ground itself in the understanding of antiracism and multiculturalism as a core part of faith formation. We support Unity’s efforts to expand our collective capacity to imagine and build the Beloved Community. Here, we share the stories of this journey — the struggles, the questions, and the collaborations — both at Unity and in the wider world.
The current members of the Beloved Community Staff Team include Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, Rev. KP Hong, Barbara Hubbard, Drew Danielson, Laura Park, Rev. Karen Gustafson, Angela Wilcox, Pauline Eichten, and Erika Sanders.