GATHER NEWS – June 2024

At Gather, we welcome everyone. It is who we are. We …. welcome … everyone. That is not as simple as it sounds. What does it mean to welcome everyone?

It means, first, that when a person walks through the door, we welcome them:

  • we greet them – by name and with a warm smile,
  • we offer them hospitality – a cup of coffee or tea, some snacks, and a comfortable place to sit, and
  • we try to introduce them to others or engage in a conversation with them.

We also meet each person who walks through our doors, wherever they are in that moment, and as a whole person. There is no door to knock on or bell to ring, so those of us who serve as hosts must be attentive to notice when someone walks in. It is important to individually welcome each person, whether it is there first time or fiftieth time coming in. We want each person to feel truly and warmly welcomed, and to feel seen and heard.

At Gather, we intentionally try to blur the line between us and them, host and guest, and server and served. We strive to see each person as whole and unique, with joys, concerns, and struggles and many gifts to offer. We are there to offer friendship and hospitality, not treatment or services. We welcome everyone as friends.

Part of being hospitable is offering food to everyone who comes into Gather. We do this because – as Joshin reminded us at a recent Friends’ Circle – sharing food is much more than satisfying physical hunger. It is a time-honored and ancient way that we humans get to know each other better, develop relationships, and enjoy each other’s company. It is the ultimate act of hospitality.

And who are we talking about when we say everyone? We really mean everyone. We include folks we have met before and those we haven’t met, those who resemble or remind us of people we know, and those who are quite different from the folks with whom we have had interactions in the past. Some of them are folks we might have turned away from as we walked past them on the street. Can we now not only look at them, but look at them as whole people with families, struggles, joys and challenges not all that different from ours? Can we be gentle, open hearted and warm toward everyone? Really toward everyone?

Gather: Where Community Happens (logo)Seeing each person at Gather without assumptions or judgment, starting each encounter with an open mind and loving heart, is act of generosity and kindness. It is a practice.

As I write this I recall the Buddhist teaching of the three treasures, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, being understood as uniqueness, diversity and harmony. That is what Gather teaches me: to see the uniqueness and wholeness of each person, to embrace the diversity of all of us who come together, and celebrate the harmony we can create by truly welcoming everyone who walks in our door.
Serving at Gather is a practice that has deeply enriched my life and I am grateful to spend time with all of the many people who come into Gather, and to get to know them for who they are, both as hosts and guests.

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