News for June 2018

Dear Friends,

We all like to be made welcome – starting a new job or new school, coming home after a long day, visiting family or friends, joining a new group or club, coming to church, marrying into a new family.

Well, the season for weddings and christenings really starts this month at The Good Shepherd. These are occasions when we really want to make newcomers and visitors particularly welcome, as we recognise the significance of these special life events for them. But, of course, extending a warm welcome is not just about the special occasions, it should be part of our DNA as a church. How we welcome both our regular members and newcomers is one of the most important aspects of church life.

In my experience, every church community thinks they are a welcoming and friendly church! That is likely to be because they are friendly with each other; with the people they know. Churches may say ‘all are welcome’ and mean it, but not realise how unwelcoming they may appear to an outsider. Probably we have all been to churches where we have not felt particularly welcome. That was certainly something I noticed during my Sabbatical some years ago. Those churches which I found warm, friendly and welcoming were in the minority, out of those I visited. I still remember standing on my own at coffee at one church, while everyone chatted happily around me in their ‘huddles’. If I had moved to the area, and was trying the church for the first time, it would probably have been my last! Another church was completely different – a warm welcome at the door, a service which I could easily follow, and a group having coffee who invited me to join them.

Welcome is not just the responsibility of the vicar, churchwardens, or sidespeople – it is the responsibility of the whole church community. It only takes one person to spoil a welcome. Welcome starts at the church door and has to continue until people leave the building – that means looking out for newcomers sitting near us in the service who may need help or encouragement; not only inviting people to stay for coffee, but going with them and introducing them to others; looking out for visitors and being attentive to their needs. There are countless ways we can help people to feel welcome at our church.                                   

The hospitality of our welcome should be central to our Christian calling. We are there to extend the gracious welcome and acceptance of Jesus. Coventry Cathedral have a wonderful Welcome message to all who visit there:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, filthy rich, comfortable or dirt poor.

We extend a special welcome to wailing babies and excitable toddlers.

We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself.

You're welcome here if you're 'just browsing', just woken up or just got out of prison.

We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven't been to church since Christmas ten years ago.

We extend a warm welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.

We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters.

We welcome those who are in recovery and those who are still addicted.

We welcome you if you're having problems, are down in the dumps or don't like organised religion.

We offer a welcome to those who think the Earth is flat, work too hard, don't work, can't spell or are here because granny is visiting and wanted to come to the Cathedral.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither.

We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids or got lost in the city centre and wound up here by mistake.

We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters... and YOU!

 

Please look out for newcomers and visitors over the months ahead, and make them welcome amongst us.

Joan