Welcome Home! Now What?
St. John's is a welcoming church.
We have a statement that claims it and actions that demonstrate it.
St. John's welcomes everyone.
Really, that sentence alone ought to be enough of a statement. Someday perhaps it will be. But in a time when many churches exclude people, implicitly and explicitly, it's important to say more.
We adopted our welcome statement years ago, not long after our first Sunday School class joined the Reconciling Ministries Network. Then our youth group joined RMN and adopted a statement of their own. Based partly on the wording of the youth statement, and on some fresh eyes reviewing our original statement, it was decided at Church Council this week that our St. John's welcome statement would be revised. The new wording does not change the substance of the welcome. It does state our welcome more positively. Hopefully it conveys that not only are all welcome at St. John's, but all are needed. We need a diverse group of folks at the table, all hands on the rope, as we do this good work we have all been called to do.
I am ever grateful for the spirit of "yes" that permeates this place, and grateful for the welcome that goes beyond even what is included in the words below:
St. John's welcomes everyone. Our hearts, minds, and doors are open to people of all ages, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, gender identities, theological identities, economic status, disabilities, and sojourn on the way to recovery and wholeness. We are a diverse community whose discipleship to Jesus Christ is demonstrated through our deep commitment to servant ministry. Welcome Home!
We are a welcoming church. But what happens beyond the welcome? The entry point for community is important, but it's only a beginning. Are we doing enough to engage people fully in the life of the church? Are we caring well for one another? Are we paying attention, being mindful of the needs around us, in our community or maybe in the next pew?
Real community is characterized by how well we are caring for one another .... Are we claiming and demonstrating love for God and love for one another? Are we encouraging each other toward a deeper practice of loving God and loving neighbor? Are we mindful and thoughtful enough to slow down and get to know each other? Are we willing to ask "how is it with your soul" and then really listen to the response?
We need time to talk together, to listen together, to walk with one another. That's how relationships are deepened. That's how we share life and faith. That's how we grow.
So, reach out to someone this week. It could be someone you just met. It could be a potential reconnect with someone you have been concerned about or just missing. Connect however you can, but in my experience nothing beats a real-life, real-time, in-person contact (old school I know).
Share a meal.
Meet for coffee.
"Welcome Home" is an entry into community, but rich and vibrant community life develops through sharing our unique stories and by enjoying our shared experience - crying, questioning, walking, laughing, playing, eating, singing, creating, letting go, listening, being together.
Again, reach out to someone this week.
I'd love to know how it goes.