Welcoming

R and I have enjoyed walking the streets of Boston this weekend. The neighbourhoods are rich with history and character, whether you walk on the original cobblestone road on Acorn Street, follow the freedom trail or visit Old North Church, which opened in 1723 and played a dramatic role in the American Revolution.

Although we passed by a number of beautiful and historic churches, I was particularly impressed with how a few of them chose to post public messages on the outside of their church walls. These are a few examples:

“Immigrants & Refugees: Welcome.”
“Love thy (Muslim) Neighbour as thyself.”
“The well-being of anyone is the business of everyone.”

It was encouraging to see these old churches publicly challenging bigotry and racism and encouraging people from every background to feel welcome entering their historic buildings.

This morning we went to Old South Church in Copley Square, whose history dates back to 1669. They also call themselves the church of the finishing line, as the Boston Marathon finish line is located just outside their building. The congregation held a special blessing for the marathon runners, with an additional time of remembrance to mark the fifth anniversary of the bombing attack. The entire service was geared for the runners in a meaningful and relevant way. The church made a point of making every person feel welcome and valued while also challenging us to go and do likewise.

I was touched by one of the responsive prayers:

Welcome to this sacred place:
House of prayer for many nations; home to all who come.
Welcome to this gathering place where none are turned away:
Friend and stranger, saint and sinner, survivor and griever,
Come with hope or hesitation; come with joy or yearning.
We come from many places, with many differences, to the common ground of this sacred house.
When paths cross and travellers meet, there is much to celebrate.

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