This is a reprint of my column from the April 2019 Carillon Notes. Read the whole newsletter here.
Spring is officially here! Spring is a busy time at First Congregational United Church of Christ. In the coming months, we’ll recognize Holy Week, celebrate Easter, have a Service of Extravagant Welcome, recognize our seniors, confirm our confirmands, throw a beef dinner, start a couple of new programs, and do a lot of other things. Whew!
Some of the events we’ll have—especially Easter and our Service of Extravagant Welcome—are great opportunities for us to invite visitors and welcome new people to our faith community. And that has made me think about how we welcome people, and the difference between passive welcome and active welcome.
Passive welcome is about removing the barriers to our community. Clear signage, instructions for worship, accessibility, and so on are part of passive welcome. This is important work, and we’re pretty good at it, and we’re still improving.
Active welcome is about showing people that we’re glad they’re here and that we want to help them find a place in our community. This is harder to describe, but it might include things as simple as saying to visitors, “Thank you for joining us today, is there anything you would like to know about our church?” And it might include things that are a little harder, like putting a rainbow flag up during LGBQIA+ Pride Month. And it definitely includes moving out of our comfort zones to help each person who we encounter feel a little more at home.
That is work; and it’s important work. It’s not just important work for us (because, of course, we would love to have more people join our church family). It’s important work for the people who we are welcoming… people who may not be able to find a faith community in DeWitt where they feel really, truly, and deeply welcome.
So, as we move into spring, I want us to think about two things. First. I want us to imagine ways that we can invite people to our church. Not just for worship (though that’s important), but for other events, as well. Second, I want us to think about how we can welcome people into our community. Not just passively (though that’s important), but actively… maybe, even, extravagantly.