Thank You For Being So Welcoming!
At a recent church meeting, the group was quite pleased to learn of three instances where people outside our membership felt genuinely welcome. These were all quite different from each other, and they demonstrated what an impact we can make.
In one case, on May 27 we were able to provide the Sanctuary and the Plambeck Room for a Memorial Service for a family that is not a part of our community of faith. At the close of the service, Bill Bush was approached by a woman who had attended the service and asked if he was associated with the church. Upon his affirmative reply, she proceeded to tell him that upon entering the sanctuary, she had immediately felt safe, warm, and at ease, even though this was the first time she had been there. Just a couple of minutes later, another woman approached Bill, and also wanted to know if he was a church member. When he replied yes, she proceeded to also tell him that she had found the sanctuary to be an inviting and comfortable atmosphere in which she had been totally at ease. Bill felt overwhelmed by what these two strangers, who had never been to our church, had said to him. He felt that their unsolicited feelings about the vibe they had felt in our sanctuary validated our goal of “Widening Our Welcome.”
But even more important than the physical changes to our campus are the ways we interact with people in our community.
For example, Russ recently received an e-mail from a visitor who attended one of our services. This woman hadn't gone forward to take communion, but she genuinely appreciated that a deacon approached her where she sat and quietly asked if she would like communion brought to her. Although she wasn’t ready to partake at that time, she considered this to be a kind and sensitive offer.
Another example of friendly and welcoming engagement with our community is our sign. As I’m sure you know, our sign is one of our most visible means of interacting with our neighborhood, and Russ is quite good at finding fun and clever ways of expressing our faith with the limited space available. We even used the sign to congratulate him when he completed his Ironman event last year, which was another way we opened ourselves up to the wider community.
Cho Nai Cheung was shopping for broccoli recently to supplement the food she and others would be taking to the homeless shelter later that day. Another shopper commented on the amount of broccoli that Cho Nai had purchased, so Cho Nai mentioned that she would be serving the shelter meal that day. The woman was interested in how she could help to take meals to the shelter, so Cho Nai told her that she could come by the church to help out, mentioning that we are the church on Willow Pass Road. The woman asked Cho Nai excitedly if that is the church with the Ironman pastor? When Cho Nai confirmed that it was, the woman said that she loved the messages on the sign. She said she regularly takes photos of the sign and sends it to her friends. Her companion that was shopping with her acknowledged how much they all enjoyed the messages.
I know and appreciate the visible changes that have made our campus feel more welcoming. But we (or at least I) sometimes take for granted the little things that just seem to happen that also make our campus and our worship services more inviting. Fun, clever and inviting messages on our sign. A neat and tidy campus. Smiling faces that greet you when you walk in. Fresh coffee, tea and tasty goodies to nibble on. Kind gestures to help all feel included in communion. Friendly people in the lobby and the pews.
Those little things you all do make a big difference in how our community and especially our visitors feel about our church. Thank you very much for all the ways you find to be more welcoming!
--Scott Sumner-Moore, Moderator