Can We Pray At Our Community Parties
I’ve been debating about writing on this topic.
It is an extremely sensitive issue, especially here in Utah, where so many of our people are very religious, and are taught to pray in earnest, even if counseled otherwise.
This article does not just apply to our senior communities, but to any HOA community where you reside in a religiously dominant region.
The whole point of a community clubhouse, is to involve everybody from whatever belief structure they hold.
Should we be mixing religions with community parties?
The two biggest issues
While this is a free country, with the freedom of speech and religion being key rights, we run into some issues when we discriminate based on religion.
Say for instance, we have a community pot-luck party. There will be many people, possibly the majority, who want to offer a prayer over the meal.
Even if we offer people the right to leave during a prayer, show up 10 minutes late, or to say their own prayer or whatever we feel might appease them, they are often the minority, and will feel uncomfortable in such a setting.
Because of this discomfort, some of them will feel singled out or unwelcomed, despite assurances to the contrary. The next time the community hosts a potluck dinner, guess who will not feel comfortable attending?
What happens, is that many of these great people feel like the dinner has turned into a church social. It’s unfortunate that they don’t feel part of the community because of this.
In some cases, lawsuits have even been brought against HOA’s because of this.
Nobody wants either a lawsuit or for someone to feel alienated. A lawsuit immediately creates hurt feelings and bad blood between neighbors. Being alienated or singled out for different beliefs can lead to an in-cohesive community, where we miss out on wonderful and diverse friendships.
How to be inclusive without compromising beliefs
Fostering an environment where everybody feels welcomed, takes effort. It also requires compromise. We often council residents of the dominant religious community to avoid the big opening prayers at the beginning of community parties.
This isn’t a request that we make lightly, nor is it a request to avoid prayers all together. If you feel inclined to pray over the food before a community dinner, by all means, do so. But you don’t necessarily have to do it in front of everybody.
A simple prayer before you come is often sufficient, or a prayer in your heart as you sit down is often acceptable for many religions. Is being heard by all, better than losing the companionship of those who feel uncomfortable in such settings?
You may not always understand their feelings, just as they may not understand yours. If you were the minority, wouldn’t you hope for a little compromise on their part to help you feel more at ease in one of their parties?
This same concept applies to those who feel uncomfortable in such situations. There will always be those who’s fervor is unquenchable and uncompromising. When this happens, please know that there are many others in the room who are hoping you don’t feel alienated. They want desperately to know you and have you for a friend.
In this same vein
Please remember that the clubhouse is not a church-house. If you want to use the clubhouse for a religious get-together, please reserve the building for that purpose.
There is usually a fee associated with a building reservation, but this is how private parties are scheduled. If it is a large party, that fee can be pennies per person; not a significant investment. That fee can also be used creatively as the HOA allows, possibly providing things for the clubhouse that can add extra benefit for all its users, like popcorn, candy, drinks, etc.
Remember that the clubhouse is a first come, first serve building. You shouldn’t be pressuring somebody out of the clubhouse if you don’t have it reserved, even if it’s commonly understood that you meet every Monday night.
Compromise and patience
There are some virtues that most of us, regardless of personal beliefs, tend to value. I wish that this were not a topic that needed discussing. Learning to get along with each other is a skill.
Strong personalities will always remain strong personalities, and they can be had by both religious and non-religious people. My petition is simply that we do not plant our heals like so many political pundits. We build amazing communities for active adults, and we have many wonderful people of all backgrounds and beliefs that like to call these communities home.
Let us not be divided as the religious vs the non-religious. Many of us already carry those titles. When we get together in our clubhouses, let’s find a way that we can be labeled as neighbors and friends within this cohesive community of active adults.