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Shortly after Labor Day, we will welcome our new rector, the Rev. Ledlie Laughlin and his wife, Sarah to St. Columba’s. How do we prepare to be our best welcoming selves? How do we open our hearts to the changes to come, to new leadership? What does a gentle, generous, truthful, kind and brave welcome look like at St. C’s?
The answer to this question isn’t relevant just to welcoming Ledlie. Every Sunday, visitors come through our doors from many different places – both geographically and spiritually. Some are new to the area; others are already here but looking for a new church home. Some come steeped in the Episcopal tradition, while others come from other Christian traditions or may even be attending church for the first time. But no matter where they are coming from, we want them to feel welcome too.
So many visitors and longtime parishioners compliment the warm welcome our teams of greeters and ushers provide on Sunday mornings. Jennifer Turner, the Rev. Rob Boulter, and Serena Sides spearheaded the transformation of our welcome ministries; we are grateful to them and to all who serve as greeters and ushers. Of course, creating a welcoming Christian community is not just the job of ushers and greeters. We all play a part. Nor is Christian welcome just about hospitality and friendly Sunday greetings. Genuine welcome takes readiness, trust and openness. We see it when a greeter escorts a new family into the Great Hall service and invites the mom carrying a new baby to join the Mothers’ Group that gathers on Wednesday mornings; or when a young person who doesn’t like to sing is invited to become an acolyte or usher instead. Creating new liturgies, like Live@5, or using real bread instead of wafers at communion—and then asking what people think about it—are signs of welcome. Not every new idea will be tried. Not every change will work. But how can we be transformed if we simply stick to the status quo?
In "God’s Welcome," Amy Oden talks about the need to create “friendly, empty spaces” in our churches. She writes, “As we cultivate a spirituality of hospitality within our churches, we can think not only about what we have to offer visitors, but also about what empty space we can open up to make room for them. It’s at least as important to receive others as it is to give things to them.” We need to make room not just for those whom we want to welcome, but also for change and for God’s welcome, expressed through grace and forgiveness. Our lives, our church, can get so full. Sometimes we need to let go, move over and make some room.
In the months to come, let’s spend time creating friendly, welcoming space in our hearts and our church—and let’s begin by offering the warmest of St. C’s welcomes to Ledlie, Sarah, and all the other newcomers to the church.
Everyone at St. C's has a role to play in making St. Columba’s a friendly, welcoming and Spirit-filled place for visitors and regular worshippers alike, regardless of ability or disability. (Please refer to the Accessibility web page for more information.) Members of the Greeting Teams lead the Sunday morning welcome effort by greeting all who walk through our doors, seeking out newcomers and staffing the Welcome tables in the Common and Great Hall. Greeters also follow up with newcomers, providing friendly support as they seek ways to connect with the parish community, and offer an informal Tour and Talk on the second Sunday of the month. The Welcome team also supports a St. Columba’s Newcomer Class which is led by the clergy and offered in the fall and spring.
Ushers form a key part of our Welcome Ministries, greeting visitors and parishioners alike and assisting with our worship services. Likewise, the Nights of Columba serve an essential function by welcoming visitors to the church in the evening and securing the facilities.
Contact: Harry Wood and Amy Howe (email@example.com)