Welcoming Takes Time and Effort
I was once pastor of a church that rented its space from a much larger Episcopal church that had built a new sanctuary. It took a good year for most of us to feel comfortable with that arrangement.
This was not because the rector or the leadership or most of the people did not welcome us. They did. Still, it was not our space. We needed some storage. I can’t think of any churches off-hand that have empty closets. To have any space for us was to have them get rid of some of their stuff. That was uncomfortable. The (commercial) kitchen was right next to our worship space. Which meant that on the days they needed to use it while our service was in progress . . . You get the idea.
As I said, the leadership, the rector, and most of the people were super welcoming. Still, there were those moments. A look. A cross word. A pointed reminder that this was not our space and we were a nuisance. Ouch. All this even though both congregations were almost entirely white, middle class, liturgical, etc. And in full Communion with each other to boot.
I’m reflecting on this because we at St. Stephen’s find ourselves in the opposite position. We are the landlords. This is our space. And our tenants - no make that guests - who probably feel as uncomfortable in somebody else’s space as we did in one of my previous congregations, are also quite aware that they are different from us in worship style, traditions, and theology. And skin
color. And all that goes with that. Including a life experience most of us are clueless about.
In the weeks that the Abundant Life Fellowship has been with us they have experienced the same
discomfort we did in that previous congregation. On top of that, a neighbor has complained
about the noise. (Rest assured, we are in compliance with city regulations.)
So here’s where you come in.
Go out of your way to be welcoming
with your words
in your tone of voice
in your facial expression
Stay long enough to welcome people as they come in to set up. And most importantly.
Learn the names of as many of our guests as you can.
My experience tells me we will have to be intentional about this for a year. Are we up to it?
Pastor Mark Walters