Linda Linfors   -  

Open Doors is a St. Stephen small group whose members strive to live out their baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. Open Doors offers occasional commentaries and articles exploring a wide range of issues at the intersection of faith and justice.

When I was in high school, attending youth group on Sunday night was an experience in belonging. We had a dinner together and then a group chat/meeting. The older youth had a special place to gather and conduct our “business.”

Our church occupied a full city block in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. On part of that block was a small house, likely a home for the clergy in past years, but used in my time there as a “youth house” for our get-togethers. We led ourselves through devotions, Bible study, elections, and a variety of projects. Those conversations all took place in the largest room in the small house in dim light and with the intensity that it seems, with rare exception, only youth can muster.

This small house and our sessions there remain in my memory as one of the highlights of my life. I believe that was because I belonged, I was valued, and I found my place in the world. Youth have a special age-related need for these things, but all of us, in one form or another, continue to wish for belonging and to feel valued.

Belonging in the kin-dom of the Ever-loving God feels much like the belonging I felt back in youth group. Without tie to place or even to people, the kin-dom is an awareness of the all-encompassing desire of the Deity to include us, to value us, to allow us to be our authentic selves without fear.

As we at St. Stephen welcome others into our church, we strive to create this feeling of belonging and make our church be a place where everyone knows of The Great Welcomer who welcomes our full selves. Living our lives with the awareness of this welcome from God communicates to others that — no matter size, age, gender, appearance, sexuality, skin color, disability, behavior, clothing, wealth, or any other measure — we need not fear. The Holy Three-in-One values us just as we are in our full selves. And they call us to live our joy by welcoming others.

  • Can you recall people in the Bible that needed to hear they belonged in the kingdom?
  • How does it feel to belong in God’s World?
  • How can you move through the world to welcome others as God has welcomed you?

As you reflect on the questions below, use these two scriptural passages on hospitality, inclusion, and belonging to ground your thoughts:

Galatians 3:28 — “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 13:2 — “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”