Monday, September 14, 2009
God's Welcoming Committee
There were nine or ten newcomers in church yesterday, not uncommon as we start into the Fall. It tends to be a season of resolve to get reconnected with the faith community or to find a new church home.
I noticed a family of four on one side of the sanctuary and a couple on the other side who apparently knew one another because they were chatting during the "meet and greet" time following worship. It turns out that they are familiar with each other, but both households assumed that the other had been around for a while and could fill them in on St. Paul's. I was glad to see that they came back to the hall after the service because it is a challenge to come to a new church.
There was also a younger single woman in worship and she too stayed afterward. I spoke to her and she admitted that she was so nervous about coming out to church after years away that she couldn't eat breakfast. Fortunately she saw some familiar faces. I was relieved to see that all these folk were approached and welcomed by longer-standing members of the congregation.
Some people come to church for the first time and want to be known. Others are elusive, slipping out a door with amazing skill. Some feel at home immediately. Others struggle to find a place.
My years in ministry tell me that there is no sure-fire formula for creating a welcoming congregation. I have watched people get deeply involved very quickly and then disappear overnight. Then there are people who seem wary and standoffish who continue to worship and eventually get involved.
What I do know is that is it essential not to grow complacent in our life together, to realize that it is an act of courage for newcomers to show up at all. And we are God's welcoming committee.