I moved to North Carolina from Brooklyn 15 years ago, with much apprehension, two boys, and a dog in tow. A friend who relocated here several years before said, “Give it three years to decide whether it’s working.” What?! I thought. Three whole years?
She proved correct. We settled into a Raleigh home, convinced by conservative southern relatives that Durham was not the place for us. But it wasn’t too long before I wondered whether suburban southern life would work for the particularities of my family and our northern liberal big city ways. Even as one of my greatest surprises was that, except for my relatives, rarely did I meet a native North Carolinian.
By the third year I decided to move to Durham. The diversity and imperfections of the city reminded us of home. We formed friendships and it seemed things might work after all so we remained, and eventually found ourselves at ERUUF, immersed in Unitarian Universalism in ways I’d never imagined.
Each Sunday as I meet newcomers who find themselves at ERUUF, by choice or happenstance, I remember my own mix of eagerness and apprehension when I arrived the first time, long before I ever worked here. I stood alone at the edges of what felt like a sea of people in the Fellowship Hall after Sunday service, wanting to feel welcome and trying to figure out how to navigate the place. I departed and it was three years before I returned.
Feeling welcomed, connected and engaged in a new community can be challenging for both the one who wants the welcome and those expected to do the welcoming. The responsibility lies on both sides though. Newcomers, however tentative, must explore, seek out the information or connections they want.
It’s important that members and friends who have been here awhile extend a “more than one time” welcome to others. Be radical in offering hospitality! And aware of invisible barriers we might unconsciously participate in creating that cause others to feel quite disconnected even as we’re feeling comfortable in relationships we’ve made or activities we’re involved with. When was the last time you consciously formed a new relationship at ERUUF?
In August we’re excited to launch the Finding Yourself At ERUUF program with the Inquirers Series of classes aimed at our visitors each Sunday morning. Everyone is welcome to participate in this entry level series that offers basic information about ERUUF and Unitarian Universalism.
If you run into a newcomer on a Sunday, say hello and invite them to the class, and perhaps check it out for yourself too. Together we’re all finding ourselves at ERUUF.