Wednesday Word: Welcome
The Mission of St. John's is to . . . Worship, Welcome
The second point of our Mission Statement is to Welcome. The Episcopal church in general, and St. John's in particular, states that we are a church who welcomes all people. And, in general, I think we do a good job of that. Joelene and I felt very welcomed by the parish as we were interviewing and then settling in. You might say that's because we were the new clergy family, but I can tell you from experience that that isn't always the case. And I have spoken with several people who have felt the same way.
Being a welcoming place takes effort. It takes more effort than simply saying, “Welcome to St. John's,” handing them a bulletin, and then feeling you've done your part. As far as Sunday goes, it means doing the above, but it also means asking people you don't know, “Have we met?” If you find out they are new, it means asking if they are familiar with the Episcopal church. If not, it means offering to have someone sit with them. It means escorting them to coffee hour and introducing them to a few people.
We are also a welcoming parish when we invite people to join us for Community Cafe, as servers or guests. We are a welcoming parish when we invite outside groups to use our facilities. We are a welcoming parish when we “seek and serve Christ in all persons” regardless of their outward appearance. We are a welcoming parish when people know that this is a safe place.
We are a welcoming parish when we exhibit proper boundaries and behaviors. People in leadership positions and certain ministries are required to take the Safeguarding classes, not because we think they are people of questionable behavior, but because we want to be able to say to people, “We do this because we take your safety seriously; welcome to this safe place.” Mayfest is this Saturday evening, and along with it the sale of wine. We have worked to ensure that this is a welcome and safe place by putting certain boundaries and expectations in place regarding the presence and sale of alcohol.
Those proper boundaries and behaviors also extend to church theology and doctrine. As I wrote for Soundings a few months ago, we are a big tent circus of a church that welcomes all people into the household of God regardless of gender, race, orientation, or any other difference we might assign to a person. We welcome all. There is a caveat to that, however.
Part of having good boundaries is knowing who you are and what you will and will not tolerate. That said, as a parish who welcomes all, we will not welcome those who espouse racist, misogynistic, or other hateful views. We will not welcome those who abuse or belittle others. We will not welcome those who try to limit the limitless love of God to only a select few. In short, we will welcome all those who welcome all those.
The mission of St. John's is to welcome. I invite you to work at that, because it's harder than you think.