Friday, June 3, 2011

Welcome Home (Minister's Column June 2011 Newsletter Content)

I spent the four-day Memorial Day weekend at the Kerrville Folk Festival. I try to go each year. It is, in many ways, a spiritual retreat for me. It is hard to paint a sufficiently-descriptive picture of the Kerrville Folk Festival. Some liken it to Woodstock. Some call it a big hippie fest. It is three weeks of camping, music and chillaxing. I think what draws me to Kerrville year after year is the people. Despite 100 degree temperatures and winds kicking up dirt and sand in their faces, people will go out of their way to be helpful and welcoming.

Upon arrival on Friday night I was greeted over and over again with the customary "welcome home." It doesn't matter whether it is your first visit or your fortieth visit, the sense is that this is a kind of "home." This is a place where you can be accepted no matter how you look. This is a place where we assume good intentions from one another. This is a place where we are eager to pitch in and to help one another out. Kerrville Folk Festival is a community filled with people whom mainstream society would reject, but on those hot, dusty campgrounds seem to blend together—each separate, yet part of the beautiful whole.

First timers to Kerrville are "kerrvirgins" and if someone senses you are a kerrvirgin the love gets even bigger. The kerrvirgin will be inundated with tips on good places to pitch a tent, directions to the stages, offers for assistance. Strangers will eagerly inquire about what kind of music you like or where you are from. They might ask what route you took to get there. People will invite you to their camp and offer you their last cold beverage or a hamburger right off the grill. They'll introduce you to every last person they know and they will call you "family."

Each year upon arriving, it takes a couple of days for me to shift into this new and radical way of being, but once I do it all feels so right and natural. And it becomes hard to enter back into a world where suspicion, individualism and isolation tend to reign. My last day at Kerrville is always bitter-sweet. Last Monday morning I was sitting at my camp, taking in every last bit of love and "home" before packing up to return to my Denton home.

On the way out of the campgrounds makeshift signs read, "it can be this way always." I cling to that hope whenever I leave that place. I hope that I have picked up enough of the Kerrville Folk Festival spirit that I might plant some of it here in Denton and help to create a place where we all go out of our way to welcome the stranger, offer up our last beverage or burger, nurture our (and another’s) creativity, assume good intentions from one another and embrace our differences.

This week Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship hosted a very successful community meeting to assess the needs of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, questioning, queer, asexual and ally community. We invited guests into our space, offered refreshments and had some wonderful conversations about how to move forward with this project to support and advocate for LGBTQ youth and seniors (and everyone in between). At least six other faith groups were represented who want to partner with us. In all about 90 people attended. We passed the basket and raised $230 to get us going.

This is not our city’s first attempt at such a project, but I do hope that our attempts will create something lasting. Perhaps we will create a kind of home for LGBTQA folks who have a hard timing feeling "at home" in Denton. And perhaps we will help to create the kind of broader community where people can arrive tired and weary, but will be seen for all they are (L,G, B, T, Q, I or A, black, white, brown, yellow, old, young…), and be greeted with a broad smile and an enthusiastic, "welcome home."

In faith that it can be this way always,

Rev. Pam