I shared this picture on Facebook and have seen it several places. I think it is a great way to orient ourselves at this time of year. But it also reminds me that sometimes we fall short of the mark.
Some of you may be aware that St. John’s received an anonymous letter early in early November. This letter was from a family that has visited us here at St. John’s several times and wanted us to know that they did not feel welcomed at fellowship or a “part of the gathering after church”.
I have shared this letter with council and a few or our committees and all seemed to wonder how this could happen, but have also shared with me similar things that have happened. I know of members of the congregation who voiced to me concerns about feeling welcomed. Just the other night at a committee meeting, a member of the committee shared how they sat at a table and those who were already sitting there didn’t even make eye contact with them.
One of the things that drew me to St. John’s was the welcoming open atmosphere and the genuine concern this congregation portrayed. We are open and welcoming in worship but the fellowship time has seemed to have taken on a time for sharing with friends and catching up from the past weeks. And don’t get me wrong we all need time to do this, but we as members of the congregation need to be aware of the perceptions that are happening in our building. People are leaving our congregation on Sunday morning feeling alone. People are sitting at tables and being shunned. And I know, as you know, we are better than that.
And I am at fault here also. I do not spend a lot of time in fellowship because I am usually in Adult Sunday School. Should I be in fellowship, yes I should. However, I should also be at Adult Sunday School. I’m not pointing fingers at others, I am saying I am at fault here too.
So what do we do about this?
We be present and talk to people. Make a conscious effort to say hello to someone you are not sure who they are. Ask them there name and chance asking if they are a visitor. I have done that to members of all the congregations I have pastored because I haven’t seen them in a while and just plain forgot. We are human.
Give hugs and spend time with friends. Fellowship is about building up the body, including new people and fostering lifelong relationships.
Send love to those around you. Seek out someone who looks down and see if you can help. Be the presence of Christ in the moment for someone.
Be the light in this place and everywhere. God has given us a wonderful place to call home in St. John’s! Let us share that with everyone and open ourselves up to the new and the old and embrace where God is leading us.
So be the light and welcome the stranger in our midst and let us build the body of Christ!