How One Meeting’s Unexpected Welcoming Practice Encouraged A Newcomer to Stay (And They Only Learned By Asking)!
Participants in FGC's Welcoming Friend Project recently interviewed newcomers at their meetings, asking the question, "What has made you feel welcome at meeting?" Friend Robin Whitely shared a story about a recent newcomer at her Quaker meeting.
The new Friend, whose faith journey had brought her to several other churches before coming to Robin's meeting, spoke with a foreign accent. Hearing "where are you from?" many times before had become tiresome and unpleasant for the spiritual-seeking Friend, especially since she had been living in the United States for many years.
To the newcomer’s surprise and relief, Friends engaged her in conversations that did not revolve about her accent or where she had lived in the past. This small gesture helped to create a feeling of belonging, and encouraged her to continue her walk with Friends.
"It is ever so tempting to help a visitor or newcomer feel seen...by recognizing their 'otherness,' especially an accent, which seems fairly harmless as compared to race or ethnicity," Robin explained via email. "Most of us would much prefer to become known for who we are and what we care about. When we ask a newcomer about his/her accent, we should probably first be asking ourselves 'Am I doing this merely to satisfy my curiosity, or do I have reason to believe that this person would appreciate being asked?'"