What does it mean to be a open, inclusive community?

What does it mean to be a open, inclusive community?

The following two poems speak to being open, welcoming and inclusive.  In HEC, we make these attributes a central part of our creed.  As you read these poems, we offer these questions for reflection:

  1. Is America living up to the ideals espoused in “The New Colossus” that are carved into the Statue of Liberty?
  2. What do you think led Langston Hughes to write his “Prayer” when he mediated upon the Statue of Liberty? What is he calling forth from each of us as a response?
  3. Is HEC a welcoming and inclusive community? Give reasons for your answer.
  4. How can HEC become an even more inclusive and open community?

Feel free to add your responses to any of these questions in the comments below, or just share your thoughts on the idea of being an open, welcoming and inclusive community!

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus (written for the Statue of Liberty) 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


“Prayer” by Langston Hughes

Gather up – in the arms of your pity – the sick, the depraved, the desperate, the tired,

All the scum of our weary city.

Gather up – in the arms of your pity.  Gather up – in the arms of your love,

Those who expect no love from above…


Don’t forget to add your responses to the reflection questions, or just thoughts you’d like to share, in the comments box below! 

By | 2020-07-09T03:52:04+00:00 July 9th, 2020|Uncategorized|8 Comments


  1. Angela Cozzi July 29, 2020 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    As many of you are aware, my first, real experience of HEC was after I “landed: in a wheelchair. The retreat was very humbling as I had to come to grips with some stereotypes. Also realized that HEC is all-inclusive. Each time I arrive at a gathering, I clear my mind so I am open to see what I’ve never seen before and accept more people and things to which I’ve not been exposed. I’ve learned there is much more to learn on this journey. As Emma Lazarus wrote over 200 years ago, America is supposed to be welcoming and we’ve not lived up to it. We each have to do our part to live up to John’s legacy, accepting everyone NO MATTER WHAT, learning about those that are different (for whatever reason) and being open to whatever person or thing comes along. As I learned in Cursillo, and so true in our lives, Participate don’t Anticipate. God made us in Her/His image and that image changes depending on the people we encounter on our journey!

  2. JoAnn Stonier July 26, 2020 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    As most of you know, I found the HEC community at the ripe old age of 15 and its inclusivity was one of its core tenants that amazed me and my three high school friends who came on those early kitchen crews and weekends. It was faith in action to us – an open community that included everyone at the altar and claimed humanness in all of its messy, awkward and beautiful forms. My heart is heavy that so many parts of our society are now defined by “the other” and that we haven’t really progressed the conversation in all aspects of life to ensure inclusion for everyone in our communities – faith, work, academic and indeed in, society at large. If HEC is going to continue its tradition of inclusion – we too will need to think about how we reinvent our invitations – so that everyone knows they are welcome at our table. That it is what we intend I have no doubt – but in this day and age – it is not what the world assumes as too many have been hurt and rejected. So how do we continue to grow our community, help it blossom, extend our outreach – so that John’s dream can come true – that all are really welcome at our table- without doubt … without price.

  3. Jacque Moncrief July 13, 2020 at 12:44 am - Reply

    This is a bit lengthy but I believe a HEC story that needs to be told: After some years of leading HEC weekend retreats for Metro D.C./Baltimore HECer’s, I also began holding one-day retreats for HECers during Advent and Lent. It was 1993 when I planned a Lenten retreat with the theme “Seven Last Words of Christ.” A young talented artist by the name of Maxwell Lawton, whom I had previously met at Wesley Theological Seminary, had expressed interest in attending the retreat, which was being held on the seminary’s campus. Maxwell, who was gay, had recently been diagnosed with end-stage AIDS. I knew from the years I had been active in HEC that no one, who was openly gay, had ever attended a Metro HEC retreat. I thus made a point to call some of the long-time HECers to see what they thought about having someone, who was gay, to come to our upcoming retreat. As I suspected, people generally felt uneasy about Maxwell attending, especially since he had been diagnosed with AIDS. Yet, everyone agreed he should come. As the day of the retreat neared, I was surprised to get a phone call from Dan, a dearly loved friend to many of us in HEC, whom we all thought we truly knew. Dan, who was disabled, said that he needed to talk to me about Maxwell coming to the retreat. I was hardly prepared for what Dan began to tell me. Dan sounded as if he was on the verge of tears, and then after a lingering pause, he said, “I’m gay, too.” He began to explain that because I had invited someone who was openly gay to the retreat, I had given him the courage to “come out” himself. He said that he had been hiding his true sexual identity all of his life in fear of rejection and reprisal. Dan said he wanted to “come out” to everyone on the retreat when he gave his talk that I had invited him to give on Christ’s last words on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As it turned out, Dan’s talk was indeed memorable. Throughout the retreat everyone related to Maxwell with warmth and compassion, along with offering Dan their full support in his decision to reveal his true sexual orientation. At the end of 1993 Maxwell was inspired to paint “Man of Sorrows: Christ with AIDS.” After hearing of Maxwell’s painting, Archbishop Desmond Tutu commissioned him to paint a similar version of his painted in St. George’s Cathedral. (For more information about Maxwell and his art, go to MaxwellLawton.com/abouttheartist.html. Maxwell died of AIDS in 2006 at the age of 50 years old.)
    I am grateful for the openness HEC provides in welcoming everyone to our community and in striving to live as Jesus taught, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    • Ginny July 13, 2020 at 1:56 am - Reply

      I just want to add a word or two to Jacque’s beautiful story above. As a fully out, gay women, it was the HEC community, in 1975 that helped me find a spiritual home that honored my Catholic heritage, my thirst for a gospel-centered community and that welcomed me in all of my humanness. In the early days of HEC, that openness, welcoming spirit and celebration of diversity is what, I believe, made HEC such a necessary group for our world. From Jacque’s recalling of her journey with Maxwell, it seems as though this was also the case even into the 1990s. John used to say that his dream was that one day HEC wouldn’t be necessary as all would be welcome in our churches and congregations throughout the world. It is a beautiful dream, not yet realized, but still blossoming each time we gather as a HEC community, committed to the creed that honors all, welcomes all, listens to all and celebrates all.

  4. Fred Jones July 10, 2020 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Correction to my comment “sanctuary city “

  5. Arlene Jones July 10, 2020 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I have always been grateful for the HEC community’s willingness to welcome and accept people whose faith expressions are different from the majority. I have attended retreats with Jews, agnostics and many years ago, a Black Muslim who I invited to come. The message of Christianity defies the imposition of limits or constraints. I do consider HEC to be a welcoming and inclusive community. Inability to pay for the cost of the retreat, personal needs of physical care, lack of transportation, none of these are obstacles that prevent someone from attending a retreat. As far as America there is a very different response to people who want to enter and join our country. My niece’s 21 year old friend who is an international college student from Venezuela is fearful he will be deported if his college continues online learning exclusively. In Venezuela he doesn’t know where his next meal will come from. I sometimes dream of a world without borders. Welcome and inclusivity would reign!

  6. Fred Jones July 10, 2020 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    If we believed in the words carved into the statue of liberty and are willing to pray the prayer then we should believe our country should be open to anyone who wants to come. Statuary cities should be the norm and money spent on walls should be used to help those who want to come here. We should believe our country will be stronger because of diversity. However our country is having a problem just dealing with the diversity of the races that already live here. So we need to pray the prayer over and over again.

  7. Ilse Koerper July 9, 2020 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    The word ideal stuck in my mind we all have ideals and strive to achieve them, but it is I’m the striving that we bring about change. We must always as a nation and as individuals continue to strive toward the ideals set before us.
    Have we achieved then? No. Will we ever achieve them? Probably not , because then we will have reached perfection.
    I think of Paul’s writing in Romans” for I do not do the good I want to do but do the evil I do not want to do.
    Our past as individuals and as a nation is flawed , but let us not dwell solely on that but accept what has been done and strive for a brighter tomorrow,

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