Presuming to know something about this medium (HA! My one follower may belie such pretensions), I conducted a workshop on blogging during a short-term mission orientation session.

I continued to hang out with the young people for the rest of the day, lured to stay with the promise of a square dance later that night.

What happened there was noteworthy, so I feel I must practice what I preach and write up this event.

But what did I learn? Oh my! I probably wouldn’t have plumbed the experience for insight had I not sat down here to reflect here, but here goes. (And that’s one of the points I tried to make to the young’uns: writing serves critical reflection.)

Lloyd had gone out to the asylum shelter and invited sundry newcomers to join us at the square dance – “a genuine Canadian social activity”. (Actually, it’s probably more accurate to call it American.) Halfway through the evening, they joined us, so I was paired with a young man from Bangladesh.

Things weren’t quite as smooth with these unschooled additions to our group – understandably! Following instructions thrown at you regarding physical movement is hard enough without adding non-native language comprehension challenges – but I think a good time was had by all. Where the newcomers were disadvantaged by language, the Canadians were disadvantaged by unfamiliarity with dancing.

Nearly all of our new dancers are likely to have been Muslim in background, judging by their countries of origin and manner of dress. I’m not sure if we were all blissfully ignorant or just choosing to blithely ignore the fact that many of them may not have been comfortable touching people of the other sex. Fortunately, we didn’t do any swinging (which may have been too much physical contact to handle); nevertheless you can’t square dance without holding hands with everyone in the square at some point.

So where does my introspection lead?

It didn’t matter. Nobody got upset. We didn’t get it all right, but by appearances, a good time was had by all.

We didn’t wait for the right moment – Lloyd just plunged ahead and invited strangers to join us and feel at home. He made the circle bigger – exactly as I had earlier been musing with a friend about the purpose of family and church (itself family of affinity, not choosing). Yes, identity is part of the picture, but, counter-intuitively, a generous extension of belonging may end up growing a more enduring and faithful group dynamic than rigid boundary maintenance.

Build identity through expansion, not exclusion. Invite people in – to fun, to fellowship...maybe even to faith – and like as not, they’ll come along.


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