Today was the first day of the new Summer term at Silcoates School, and we welcomed three new pupils. It can be a daunting prospect, going somewhere new and unfamiliar. Will others like me? Will I know where to go and what to do? As a school, we try really hard to make sure all new pupils have “buddies” so they always have company and someone to show them the way. We pair up younger pupils with sixth form mentors who act as big brothers or sisters in school, and we make sure they know there will always be someone, whether it’s Nurse or our Chaplain, or a pastoral Head like me, to listen if they need to talk.
How welcoming are we to visitors in our churches? It’s often just as daunting to join worship at a completely new church as it is for those fresh-faced teenagers starting a new school. Do we offer visitors company, sit with them, show them where things are, and make sure we are able to listen if they just need to talk? The wonderful service to the Lord offered by volunteers on vestibule duty at Longcauseway is a case in point.
12 or so years ago, my then 5 year old daughter, Bethany, persuaded me to walk up the steps Longcauseway to investigate the building as she thought it ‘looked pretty’. We were met by Mrs Joan Harman, who allowed us the time, space and privacy to look around the sanctuary. We chatted with her afterwards, and discovered some connections, and Bethany asked if we could come back again tomorrow for the service. Joan promised to meet us at the door and to sit with us, so we knew what to do and when. After the service, she introduced us to other members of the congregation, and the following week I was sat in the choir! What a welcome! Never have I felt so instantly at home in a new church.
When asked by our minister, Angela, to think about the future of our church, and how we might develop our role in the community and further spread the Gospel, it was this event that came to mind. We have so much to share, so much joy in Christ that we want others to experience: the vision of a warm welcome to all who might come into contact with us should be our aim. “Therefore, welcome one another, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7
God bless you all,