“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
This verse of scripture is right out of last Sunday’s reading from the Epistle to the Romans. It is a reminder to us of how vital hospitality is to life in Christian community. St. Martin’s has a long-standing commitment to hospitality, radical hospitality. The banner on the side of the church boldly and unequivocally says,
For ten years I have served as an intentional interim. I have served eight parishes in seven states. Those parishes were in small towns, medium towns, suburbs, downtowns, and metropolitan areas. All of them work very hard at inviting people to come and see what God is up to among them. All of them work very hard at extending a genuine and generous welcome. All of them take great care to follow up with those who visit. None of them can match the number of first-time visitors we have at St. Martin’s!
The people of this parish have a golden opportunity week in and week out to extend a welcome to people who are new, people who are on a spiritual journey, people who are seeking a community of faith with whom they can grow in their relationship with God and as disciples of Jesus Christ. When we welcome the stranger, or one another for that matter, we are following the example of Christ who welcomed us and we are glorifying God.
Someone once told me that God sends people to churches when God can trust them to take care of them. Consider the possibility that God is sending people to us. Here are some specific ways you can help keep St. Martin’s a welcoming church.
- Look for people you don’t recognize and speak to them before you speak to anyone else. If you are afraid you’ll be embarrassed if they tell you they aren’t new to St. Martin’s, don’t worry. Nobody ever died from embarrassment.
- When you approach someone who might be new, just say, “Hello. Welcome to St. Martin’s. My name is _________. Have I met you before?”
- Invite new people to sit with you during worship or to join you at Coffee Hour after the service.
- If you notice that someone is having difficulty juggling the prayer book and hymnal, gently offer assistance.
- Invite new people to join you for brunch at a restaurant nearby.
- Encourage newcomers to fill out a visitor card.
- Wear your name tag and encourage newcomers to wear one too. Paper name tags and sharpies are at the entrances to our gathering places.
- Contact Flo Lowrey and offer to serve as a greeter, bake bread for newcomer gift bags, or to staff the new Welcome Table in the parish hall during Coffee Hour once a month.
- Invite newcomers to events other than worship. There are many different entry points.
- Keep a note card to remind you of the names of the people you meet.
- Pray for them.
Any or all of these ways of welcoming others will help ensure that St. Martin’s is known as the most welcoming and inclusive church around. Newcomers will experience the hospitality of God through the hospitality of God’s people!
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church