Whoever you are
Wherever you’re from
Whatever you seek
Whenever you come
WE WELCOME YOU
These words are printed on signs, bulletins, brochures, and our website as an invitation for all who are looking for a faith community or a spiritual home. It is a strong and powerful statement that says that people are important to us; whether they are found or lost, friend or stranger, committed or unsure, we see them as God’s children and they are welcome among us. What a great message of invitation for those outside our doors, right?
But I think that message is just as important inside our doors. For me, it is a constant reminder that we are called to welcome others just as we are welcomed, to accept others just as we are accepted, and to include others just as we are included. It reminds me that we cannot live into our mission, to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ, if we don’t first make room for all people in our common life together.
This spring the vestry has been thinking a lot about what it means to “welcome” someone. Does it mean to open our doors to them and invite them inside? Does it mean to offer them a friendly smile or a warm handshake? Does it mean to offer them a snack or a cup of coffee? These are acts of hospitality and are crucial first steps, but is that all there is to it?
When you first came to Holy Comforter, what did it take for you to feel truly welcome? Was it when someone learned your name and introduced you to others? Was it when someone remembered you from a previous visit and made a point to come back and say hello again? Was it when someone made room for you to sit next to them at the table, or invited you out for a cup of coffee? Was it when someone encouraged you to join them at an event, or asked for your help with a project? I suspect that whatever it was, you felt welcome because you made a personal connection, and that connection is why you stayed.
Holy Comforter prides itself on being a welcoming community but as we continue to grow, making these connections is getting more challenging. We are blessed with so many visitors and new members, but sometimes it can feel so overwhelming that we just retreat to those we know. While this is more comfortable for us individually, the vestry believes that God is calling us out of our comfort to make room for everyone that He calls through our doors. As Holy Comforter continues to grow, we invite you to join us in revitalizing our welcoming community, starting with these intentional acts of welcome.
Let’s wear our nametags. It makes greeting and connecting easier for everyone if we can put a name with a face from one week to the next. If you don’t have a nametag, (or if you’ve lost yours) please let the office know. They’ll be happy to make you one.
Let’s make a point to introduce ourselves to one unfamiliar face each week. Don’t worry about offending someone who’s been attending for a while - we can all use more friendly faces in our lives. Instead of saying, “Are you new here?” try, “I don’t think we’ve met yet.”
Let’s make room. Sometimes finding a place to sit is the biggest challenge a visitor faces. Consider leaving aisle seats open in your pew, or set aside a few seats at your table for visitors so you can invite them to join you.
Let’s make sure no one sits alone. When you see a person, or a couple, or a family alone during coffee hour or a special event, go over and say, “Hi.” They wouldn’t come if they didn’t want to meet people, and they won’t care if there’s a generation or two in between you. I promise.
These steps are a small part of the plan the vestry is developing for Holy Comforter so we can be intentional about inviting, welcoming, and connecting visitors and newcomers in our community. If you feel called to a ministry of welcome beyond these simple acts, please let me know so we can include you on the team.
Jamie Rumsey, Senior Warden