UU Women's Connection

Radical Hospitality

Spring Conference was planned this year [2010] by the women of ALUUC, Springfield, Illinois. Meg at first seemed reluctant to head the planning only because as a senior youth leader at our congregation, she was busy already helping senior youth at ALUUC plan the district youth CON that would take place just a couple of weeks before the Connection's spring conference.

She gave me hope however, with her response to my first e-mail. She thought that it might be a good direction for her volunteering to take now that she has begun to step away from her serious longtime involvement with the RE program. It could actually be planned for women like her. Unconsciously or not, I thought, the program might even help to "fill her own cup."

Now I admire the young people of UU who are graduated from the RE program each year and the leaders who guide them. They seem so ready and able to embrace their lives. They are full of ideas and hope and fun. And they are upstanding, engaged and aware of more than their teen navels.

I trusted Meg when she and her newly enlisted Co-chair, Brenda, another RE veteran, wanted to make small adjustments with the help of Teri Freesmeyer, our keynote, that would make the program planned for high school-aged youth work for women looking for a relaxing, revitalizing, spa-like weekend for women. Actually, I was so completely grateful that they were willing to guide the planning for the 52nd year of the spring conference that I told them it didn't matter that they had never been there. It was a relief to "let go" and allow these busy volunteers to create a weekend that they themselves would love. Never mind that they had never been there to experience the retreat and had no idea of what to expect.

Hadn't councilors tried since the move to Pilgrim Park a few years ago to build a spring conference that would inspire women to be there, provide some coping skills for their daily lives, give a little vacation from the concerns of their lives, become revived and de-stressed. Many women who attended the previous year had promised to come back with a friend in 2010, so we could simply break even financially.

Friday afternoon check in, a browse through the silent auction items and book exchange through pre-dinner rehearsal of the songs and chants we would be singing over the weekend and a preview of the weekend schedule was our beginning. Meg asked that at dinner we sit with someone we don't know and be prepared to introduce that person to the entire group later. After our introductions we sang a welcoming song to each using their name, so they might feel welcome. E.G. "Pat is here, Pat is here, all manner of good things will come to her now."

Now I see that all manner of good things came that weekend, but I want to recognize that what Springfield women created and prepared to share with their sisters at a weekend such as this is about what those preparers need in their lives as well as the rest of us. This is what I have been referring to as "radical hospitality", where closeness of a depth that allows friendships to form and guards to be let down happened. Stories were told and songs were learned and sung, prose and poetry of heart and soul was read. "Speed friending" and our commonality of purpose gave depth to our new and renewed friendships and a trust that allowed us to sing later about vajayjays, dance in ecstatic frenzy, giggle and joke and reveal ourselves fully to one another as friends and sojourners.