Originally published Jan. 25, 2016.
Every year at New Year’s I make some feeble attempts to “clean up my act.” This year I am trying to get rid of unwanted stuff and clean out my closets. It remains to be seen how well I follow through with my resolutions. This aside, I wish to share an article about how to welcome people into church. It has made me think about what attitudes do I need to “clean up” in order to say “Welcome.”
The article is a welcome message from Coventry Cathedral in England. It calls for authentic welcome of all people in all circumstances. If that sounds familiar, consider the message that Jesus gave both in word and in deed. Take care of one another, the stranger and all who need encouragement. His message did not say take care of only some and not others.
As I was mulling over this welcome message, two local church billboard messages came to mind. One says, “Come As You Are” and the other says “God Is NOT Mad at You.” These are positive attitudes that encourage people to come to worship. If we want to be honest with ourselves, each of us have some less-than-welcoming attitudes that we would do well to re-examine. Talk about New Year’s resolutions! This article spells it out in terms of cleaning up our attitudes about some people.
A welcome is extended to “wailing babies and excited toddlers. We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. …We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury or haven’t been to church since Christmas 10 years ago. …”
The article goes on to list any number of types of persons from all circumstances, some of whom we might not feel comfortable to include. In seminary, we learned about an Episcopal priest on the East Coast who said he would consider his church to be successful in the gospel message if those who were financially stable were sitting in the pews next to homeless persons who brought all their belongings with them.
The conclusion of the article reads like this: “We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids, or got lost on the Ring Road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters and you. “
The full text of the welcome message can be found at this website: http://www.npr.org/2017/01/15/509937021/english-cathedral-welcomes-visitors- with-unexpected-message
I would recommend taking a look at this full message. It can make us re-imagine what “welcome” really means.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39).
Cindy Ehlke writes from Calvary Presbyterian.