It’s more about greeting than feeding! Amidst all the success of our hospitality ministry, that’s our challenge.
Last Sunday, the new couple with the baby, Nicole and George, said as they left, “we’ve never had a better welcome at church; we’ll be back.” Well done, good and faithful church.
But as one of you added last night in the final Lenten Devotion, “Even when we’re doing better, we can always improve” (what a summary sentiment for the final session of Lent!).
Besides the highpoint of the church year, we’re on the cusp of the two Sundays of the most visitors. It’s not too late for you to decide who you might invite to join you in church! And I wonder: should the Hospitality Team Captains draft extra greeters for both Palm Sunday and Easter???
Folks, Old First, by all accounts, has made a great leap forward towards better welcoming. And the spread on the coffee hour table is clearly worthy of our guests and an outward sign of the fellowship offered. And yes, they say the way to someone’s heart is through the stomach.
But, still… here’s the challenge:
The crudite’ and crackers are a prop… so people hang around long enough for us to find the guests among the crowd and to get to know them! Don’t worry that the table stays clean, the plates are refilled, or the kitchen overseen. Our visitors won’t even notice.
Instead, focus on the people God’s sending us. They remember and look forward to the people they meet at church more than the snack afterwards! Or you might say, relationships feed visitors more than pastry (my applied paraphrase of “man does not live by bread alone!”) If you have any doubt, read this note I received.
It has been a pleasure getting to know you and some of the members of Old First. Though I am a recent transplant to Philadelphia and have only attended twice, I wanted to convey to you and your congregation how welcomed I felt from the first minute I walked through the door on that cold January morning. Wanda (I’m sorry I don’t know her last name) immediately greeted me with a big smile, introduced herself and thanked me for coming.
After hearing an uplifting and poignant sermon from you, I ventured downstairs to the social hour and was greeted warmly and cheerfully by other members of the church who one by one came up and introduced themselves and also welcomed me. My subsequent visit back in recent weeks was equally enjoyable, and I was pleasantly surprised that some remembered my name from my initial visit two months earlier.
Though I am not new to the UCC denomination (having been a UCC member for several years in another state), I must admit that the greeting I received was truly inspiring and Christ-filled. I appreciate you and other folks I have met such as Wanda, Suzanne and Woody who have welcomed me with open arms. While I travel quite a bit and can’t attend each and every Sunday, I am happy to say I have found a new spiritual home in Philadelphia.
Please pass along my sincere thanks to everyone at Old First – I look forward to returning soon!
Not a word about the food at fellowship hour… because you are more impressive!
I pray, you will all turn out this Sunday and next to welcome the people who visit in hopes of meeting Jesus. You are truly God’s hands and smiles and hearts.
See you in church,
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