All of this felt quite new to me. Normally I’m the one trying to put others at their ease as I welcome folks to ‘my’ world – the world of ‘church’ where I’ve basically felt ‘at home’ all my life. On Friday I caught a glimpse of another world, the world of teaching, and the dedicated and talented people who occupy it.
They say people make up their minds whether or not to return to a church within three minutes of arriving at a service. It’s the welcome they receive at the door and pew that sets the scene.
The other Sunday during the coffee time after the service I was in the church hall and noticed a relatively new couple sitting in glorious isolation by themselves. I started to make a move towards their table at exactly the same time as one of our pastorally sensitive Elders who had spotted them from the other side of the room. She smiled at me as if to say: you go first! So, I sat at the table and chatted with these new friends and she came in at the end of the conversation and took over.
It’s simple stuff, but I believe it makes a world of difference.
Finding our place and having that sense of belonging varies from person to person. Some want anonymity and for them the back pew is the most comfortable. Others long for conversation and friendship and see it as an essential part of what it means to be Church.
The welcome we give is part of the message we are seeking to proclaim.