What distinguishes a welcoming Quaker meeting from one that’s profoundly inclusive? Lisa Graustein is one of several Friends who shared their vision of an inclusive meeting with us. For her, welcoming starts with the ability to walk into a meetinghouse and feel safe, while inclusivity takes into account what each of us might need to flourish in that community.
“Do we understand,” she asks, “that parents of young children, people who might be in a process of transition or coming out, people who are grieving or carrying other intense needs, might need different care?”
What does inclusivity look like to you? Has your meeting taken steps not just to welcome people to Quakerism, but to embrace them into our society? We invite you to share your thoughts in our comments section.
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Lisa Graustein: What does it mean to be a welcoming space and what does it mean to be an inclusive space? I really like that question. I think about that a lot. When I think about a welcoming space I think about a space where I can walk in and have some immediate orientation to: “am I safe here?” and “am I going to be able to figure out how I need to be here?” whether that’s my home meeting, whether that’s someone else’s meeting or Quaker church, and an inclusive space, I think, is that to a greater sense.
What’s the Difference Between a Welcoming and an Inclusive Space?
Anthony Kirk: So from my perspective as a transgender man there is a difference between a welcoming and an inclusive congregation. So for me a welcoming congregation is mostly just through verbal communication, saying “Oh, we’re accepting – we accept people that are LGBTQ and you are welcoming in our meeting,” while an inclusive meeting has not only talked the talk but they walk the walk.
Mary Linda McKinney: A welcoming space for me is one where we meet people where they are and bring them into whatever is happening. An inclusive space recognizes the intrinsic worth of each of the members.
Elements of an Inclusive Space
We have to recognize the things that we are doing that create barriers to people bringing their whole selves.
Lisa Graustein: So things that I do a lot of work with in New England, and more broadly with Friends, is how do we recognize microaggressions in the moment and how do we interrupt them in the moment. That if I walk in a meeting door and somebody says, “Welcome! Can I give you some information about our meeting?” that’s really different than if I walk in the door and say, “Oh, are you a Quaker?” Many people in the U.S. will assume I’m a Quaker because I fit a lot of the demographic norms of what a Quaker looks like. I know for some of my friends of color that’s not their experience walking in the door, and that “Are you a Quaker?” can be an assumption of “I somehow think maybe you don’t belong here” can be implied. And so how do we welcome people where we’re orienting people to what a space is and what we’re doing in a way that just conveys I want you to feel welcome without me making any assumptions about who you are or who you aren’t.
And then the next layer of that to me is what are all the things we do to make those spaces accessible, and so that is where we get the deeper work of inclusion. So can people physically access the building? Can they meet their physical and cognitive needs in the way that we’re doing programming and is there space to get whatever accommodations might be needed? Are we acting as if our young people are fully a part of our body, or these kids that are kind of there some of the time? Do we understand that parents of young children, that people who might be in a process of transition or coming out, that people who are grieving or carrying other intense needs might need different care than those of us who are not at different stages of life? Are we paying attention to the fact that national events are going to land differently in different ones of us based on the identities we carry? Are we recognizing that some of us might contribute money, some of us might contribute time, some of us might contribute prayer, and some of us might not be in a place to contribute anything, and that all of that is valued and for each of us that will probably change over our lifetime.
Sarah Katrreen Hoggatt: One of the practices our yearly meeting has over and over again is when we’re considering joining a larger group or affiliated with a larger Quaker organization a question that we always ask is “Is it inclusive?” and if it is not inclusive, if it is not a safe space for 100% of our community then we don’t join. A community is only as good as how far you’re willing to go to defend it.
Another thing about being inclusive is what images do you have around your space? If you have pictures that you put out into the community, does that reflect an inclusive community? As an LGBTQ person, do I hear people like me honored on the platform? What voices do I hear honored? What people are up on the platform? Are they always straight people or are they LGBTQ people? Who’s filling your committees? Who’s making decisions? Who’s voices are heard and weighted?
Anthony Kirk: And another way is to do education, either within the meeting or on your own. That you’re willing to ask questions, you’re willing to sit with your discomfort and say “What don’t I know? What do I need to know?” and understand that it’s a journey and that it’s ok where you’re at, but that that act of actually learning and growing and showing it makes a meeting inclusive.
Lisa Graustein: These are all the things that I think about that make an inclusive space. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it has to be really trying and really working, and we have to pause and say: are there voices we’re not hearing? Are there people who have left us because they didn’t feel welcomed here? Are there things I am doing that are not welcoming to others, and how can you help me learn those and how can I help you learn the places where you might have gaps, and how can we see those moments as acts of faithfulness?
- 1) In what ways is your community welcoming? How is it inclusive? Is the differentiation necessary?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.