I love this time of year, both at school and at church. It’s a season of regathering and in-gathering and joyful reconnection with friends after the summer’s adventures. It’s also a time when our communities are enlivened by people we meet for the first time. New students arrive with fresh questions and ideas, new children turn up in Sunday school, and visitors drop by hoping the church can help them find ways to be of service. In these bright fall days, new energies and hopes nearly crackle in the air.

It can also be an anxious time, because we want the quality of our invitation to our communities to match the hopeful aspirations of those who come through the door. Have we planned the right programs, chosen the right curricula? As we consider the invitation we hope to offer, it’s worth remembering the things that drew us to the life of faith, the planned and the unplanned, the organized and the accidental.

Years ago I taught a course on religious education with a gifted graduate student who recounted aspects of her Jewish education for our mostly Christian students. Her introduction to the religious life of her community included being invited by her teachers to lick honey from the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, a practice that dates back at least to the Middle Ages. This delicious invitation to the study of Hebrew linked study and sweetness forever in her imagination, as her teachers hoped it would.