Tonight, two Neighborhood Church members and I are visiting the Union Station Homeless Services shelter on Raymond Avenue. to offer free chair massage to whomever would like it. This is our third visit this week, and we have several more dates scheduled before the month is up. We have eight volunteers this year, and since the USHS shelter is open year-round, we will continue to visit well beyond February.
I was trained in this ministry by Catholic nuns back in my seminary days in 2001, in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, where the homeless are corralled and live. My instructor was trained by Mother Theresa herself, so that means our Neighborhood volunteers are only a few degrees of separation away from the Saint!
Are Catholicism and Unitarian Universalism like oil and water? Sometimes it would seem so – I’m appalled by some recent Catholic institutions’ decisions to fire workers who are married to a same-sex partner. Catholics could learn from Unitarian Universalists about the truly inclusive love we practice, that Jesus himself practiced.
UUs could learn from Catholic nuns, too, about what it means to be radically compassionate and to embody what Jesus taught. Religion can’t just be about thoughts and receiving an inspiring message each Sunday. Religion is not about belonging to a social club. Religion at its best is about transformation, so that all our actions are in alignment with our deepest values.
One of my deepest values is kindness and compassion. When I massage a homeless person, I am blessed by the connection and the feelings of kindness and caring my actions transmit. After an hour of massaging people, I feel light and happy, less locked up in my own personal anxieties. To acknowledge that humanity is all one and worthy, my heart is transformed.
May we see what all of humanity has in common, well beyond what sets us apart, that our hearts and lives may be transformed. Happy Valentine’s Day!
-Rev. Hannah Petrie