“Welcome home.” Two simple words that can bring so much comfort. I recently heard them from Sammie Morrison while attending the semi-monthly community fellowship lunch at the Southeast White House in DC. William Penn House staff and interns were first invited to these lunches over 3 years ago, and the relationship with this wonderful place has become a vital part of our connection to the community. The Southeast White House primarily flows from some folks with a deep evangelical/Trinitarian faith – not something that is very familiar or initially comforting to many of the secular/humanist/Universalist individuals and groups that come to William Penn House. But what is so moving and inspiring about the Southeast White House, for those of us who have the great fortune to spend time there, is what they practice. All are truly welcome, and the depth of faith allows for taking many leaps of faith – going as “way opens.”
The nuts and bolts of what they do: semi-monthly lunches and weekly prayer breakfasts, after-school and tutoring/mentoring programs for neighborhood youth, and regular parent/family support programs. This list does not begin to capture the true spirit and energy of welcome that they practice. At the lunches, the mix and diversity of people and the welcoming spirit are something I know Quakers and so many others aspire for, and here it is. From Sammie, Scott and Baxter G, to Kathy, Tina, Ernest and Joel, to pretty much everyone you meet there, you quickly bypass “stranger” and go right to “guest” and then “friend”. “Come as you are” and “We are a house for all people” is a constant message, and once you truly get that when others speak their own and beliefs, it is not a mandate to accept it, but rather an invitation to share yours, it is transformative. If you are ever in DC on a Tuesday morning, or a first or third Wednesday of the month at 12:30, you, too, are welcome.
In recognition of and gratitude to the Southeast White House, take a moment to reflect on the words of 20th century pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick:
Peace is an awareness of the reserves from beyond ourselves, so that our power is not so much in us as through us. Peace is the gift, not of volitional struggle, but of spiritual hospitality.
In what ways can you practice greater hospitality today as an expression of your own beliefs?
(The Southeast White House is located at 2909 Pennsylvania Ave. SE).
Submitted by Brad Ogilvie