Old First has a problem. A peculiar one for the contemporary church. Rather than facing a declining community, we struggle with figuring out how to welcome and get to know the new folks who are showing up. If we want to do it as well as the newcomers and our community deserve, we’ve got some way to go.
Our hospitality ministry, where every member participates on a rotating basis, in greeting at the door and hosting fellowship hour has been a great invention… and gotten us facing the right direction.
And the passing of the peace is a really warm and relaxed opportunity to get up out of the forward-facing phalanx that worship can be… to move around and meet new people. Two suggestions:
1) Could you always scan the congregation, and make it your spiritual discipline to pass the peace and introduce yourself to one person you don’t know?
2) Can we remember that for some folks the passing of the peace, all that extroversion and flesh-pressing and crowd aren’t the most comfortable part of worship, and give these brothers and sisters the room they need/want?
But I’m going to ask each of you for more help with greeting newer people in our community. The church cannot be stronger than the relationships that comprise it. And I only have so much time to try and catch up with and get to know new folks…
So, my challenge to you: how can you make it part of your ministry, or among the gifts you dedicate to Old First to come up with new ways to welcome guests and build your relationships with other people in our community?
Here’s my latest plan: I’m going to host more or less monthly “Sunday Brunch at the Parsonage.” That means, I’m going to invite people over who I don’t think know each other. My own mix of social engineering. In small groups– probably not more than 6 people. So it’s going to take a really long time before I get everyone involved. And the order is going to be pretty arbitrary. But I hope to always have a mix of longer-term folks who know others and the church with new comers.
I’ve already thought about some groups together over a simple meal: the people who have some Unitarian/Universalist connection; all the folks who work in Pharmaceuticals, people who have a family connection with Judaism; the French, Spanish and German speakers (3 different months), everyone from Massachusetts… If you can think of other possible groupings, let me know!
Will it work? Who knows. But there just might be some nice times spent over a meal together. And it’s sort of my challenge to you all? What can you think of, how could you be more intentional about doing your part to strengthen our community? I’d love to hear what you are thinking of or trying…