Over the past several weeks, we’ve been exploring the concept of culture as we discern together the culture we want to create as a community of faith. We’ve discussed creating a culture of extravagant welcome and unconditional love and this week, we will talk about authenticity. What does it mean to be authentic as individuals and how do we become a community of authenticity?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to be authentic is to be “true to one’s personality, spirit, or character.” It can also mean being “true to the original.” So when I am being authentic, I am being truly myself, just as God created me to be. I am not putting on a show or hiding the parts of myself that make me feel weak or inadequate; instead, I bring to bear everything that I have and everything that I am: my gifts… and my weaknesses.

Dr. Brené Brown, author and research professor at the University of Houston, has spent much of her career researching shame, authenticity, and vulnerability. According to Dr. Brown, if we want to be authentic, we “must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”

As people of faith, we are blessed to have holy text that remind us again and again just how loved and accepted we are. At creation, God looked upon humankind and called us good. God lovingly knitted us each together in our mothers’ wombs. God has claimed us and called us God’s own beloved children and nothing can separate us from that love. Let us begin the journey to authenticity by daring to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance.