Each month we have a new spotlight on our Theme and Plate Partner.
What Does It Mean To Be
A People of Belonging?
You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
became settling in…
You began to breathe again…
You learned to sing.
But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger…
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found…
– Jan Richardson
Jan Richardson starts off her poem by mentioning hunger. It’s also a perfect way to begin framing this month’s theme of belonging. We’ve all felt it. Just saying the word “belonging” conjures it up: The hunger to be included; the longing to be let in. No one likes standing outside the circle. No one likes leaning against the locked door listening to everyone laughing inside. From the time we are little, belonging is the thing we seek. It’s the hoped for Holy Grail at the end of our journeys.
Or is it just the beginning of our journey?
You have to love the way Richardson surprises us with that twist. One minute she’s wrapping us in comforting words about settling into belonging and the next she’s shaking us awake and telling us to get up and go. And maybe what she’s really waking us up to is the fact that there are two types of belonging, only one of which is a blessing.
To use her language, if you find yourself being invited to linger rather than leave, warning bells should go off. Be weary of those who welcome you with a club jacket and soft couch. They may have let you in, but soon they will enlist you to help with the work of keeping others out.
Instead, as all the true sages and sacred traditions tell us, the true blessing of belonging isn’t that you get to come inside the circle; it’s that you get to participate in expanding it.
Which means maybe our question this month is different than one we might expect. Instead of “Where can I find belonging?” maybe it’s “How can I become belonging for others?”
May that be the question and the type of belonging this month that – to use Richardson’s words – “will not leave any of us alone.”
From Soul Matters
For the 9th time since January 2012, thanks to the generosity of members and friends of our fellowship, we will be able to fund scholarships for roughly half the tuition and expenses to help the youth of our partner congregation in Mészkő fund their college educations. The partner church committee is also working with our partners in Mészkő to create a scholarship program for high school students.
For the past 25 years, our congregation has been partnered with the Unitarian congregation in the village of Mészkő, which is in the Transylvanian region of Romania. When our congregation entered the relationship in 1993, this faraway church in a tiny village, was an unknown quantity to all of us. As the relationship has matured, we have learned much from each other. We now realize that 21st century changes such as the exodus of young adults from villages to cities, and economic necessity, will have a far greater influence on the success of Unitarian village congregations than almost anything else.
Education is one long-term strategy to deal with the rapid social and economic changes in Eastern Europe, but going to college means paying tuition and expenses of approximately $1,000 per year. This is beyond the reach of many families in Mészkő. The subsidies provided by our scholarship program have made it possible for five students from our partner church to attend university. Four years ago, Emőke Novák became the first Mészkői youth to ever graduate from University (majoring in English and Spanish). Today Emőke works in a call center in Cluj serving customers in the US. She is now working on her Masters in Business Administration. She also serves on the Partner Church Committee for the congregation.
The Boise Partner Church Committee hopes to be able to continue to subsidize expenses for qualifying students of the congregation. A scholarship committee consisting of three members from Boise and three board members from Mészkő collaborate to determine who has met the eligibility requirements of the scholarship. The Mészkői subcommittee provides periodic reports, and accounting for the expenditures under the scholarship fund.
Students receiving the scholarships are responsible for maintaining passing grades and provide a recap of the year. After graduation, and after attaining employment, every student is expected to pay back to the fund 20% of the total scholarship amount (over a five year period). This will help to ensure that future students will have the same opportunities. On behalf of the Partner Church committee, I encourage you to help maintain this worthy cause.
Twenty-five percent of BUUF’s unpledged March plate offering will go to the Boise/Mészkő Annual Scholarship Fund. If you want 100% of your donation to go to the Boise/Mészkő Annual Scholarship Fund, write “Outreach” on the memo line of your check.