I was away last Sunday. Wanda and I traveled to be with members of her extended family in Cleveland, Ohio. While we were away, we went to visit a United Methodist Church that we regularly drive by when staying with family. It isn’t very often that I get to sit with my wife for a worship service and I enjoyed that very much. It also isn’t very often I get to visit another church on a Sunday morning and that was very rewarding as well.
I was reminded what it feels like to be a stranger, unfamiliar with the people and the practices of a new place. It takes a good bit of courage to walk into an unfamiliar church on Sunday morning. You don’t know just what you might find there. And as hard as it may be for me as a preacher to visit a new church, I am sure it’s far more challenging for someone who has never been to a church before. It was nice to hear the preacher offer a welcome at the start of the service. She said “No matter who you are or where you come from, you are welcome here.”
It is vitally important that we do our best each Sunday to put people at ease and make them feel welcome. Its easy to spend time with those we already know. We like to catch up with friends. And that is good and appropriate. But we always want to be thoughtful of those who we don’t know, whether or not they are visiting for the first time.
A few observations:
- It’s always good and appropriate to say, “Hello. I’m glad to see you today. I’m ‘so and so’ and I appreciate your help in remembering your name.”
- It’s great that we take time to pass the peace of Christ in every service. That’s at least one moment when we take notice of one another and can offer a smile and a tangible connection.
- It’s helpful to have ushers and greeters to meet people as they come into the sanctuary. It’s also important that each of us say hello and offer hospitality to those around us after the service is over.
I look forward to greeting you next Sunday.
Pastor Steve Larsen