an inviting church

Inviting is different

We will no longer be a welcoming church. That’s the title of a blog post I came across recently. It’s a few years old now, but the point of the series that follows the post is intriguing and relevant nonetheless. Now is probably not the time to not be welcoming, since we have our newcomer/new member welcome blessing and brunch this Sunday—it is truly a joy to celebrate fifteen new households and several more who are in the exploring phase. But what Rob Moss suggests is that being welcoming simply isn’t enough. It is too passive and too much about us rather than about partnering with God’s mission of reconciliation in the world right outside our doors.  God is inviting us to be an inviting church.

Inviting is different. As Moss explains:

That means we leave the comfort of our congregational home-court advantage…it starts with who God has called us to be as a church. It involves discovering our gifts and purpose. And it mandates joining God at work in the world. This isn’t about getting the world into God’s church; it’s about getting the church into God’s world. 

Being inviting isn’t about growing our church, it is about being the church throughout the week in our every day interactions. It means becoming good at knowing and claiming what God is up to in our own lives and in our community. It means learning how we the people of St. Simon’s are living out our faith, often without anyone knowing about it. It means getting clear about what we are particularly good at, what our gifts are as a community of faith and being able to articulate that. And it means going out into the world listening for the ways in which we hear longing, hope or need and beginning to make connections that are organic even if it means using slightly different muscles than usual.

At the last vestry meeting, we talked about the difference between saying ‘we have this event going on’ as opposed to, ‘would you like to join me at coffee hour or spring clean up or on Sunday morning?’ How might our spaces be changed to be more inviting? What might happen if we used the words ‘my church’ in the course of ordinary conversations with friends and neighbors? In truth, it is already beginning to happen at St. Simon’s. I hear about people sharing Reflections when the topic seems relevant to something a friend has going on or inviting a neighbor who isn’t feeling connected to a church but loves the way our parishioner talks about St. Simon’s.

Again, this isn’t about gaining members, it is about meeting needs and making connections. It’s awakening to our role in making evident God’s love in our midst. It is about being people of hope, justice and love—as we pray in the Eucharistic prayer during this season of Easter. How have you seen evidence of being an inviting church? I’d so love to hear from you!

Hope to see you on Sunday,

Elizabeth Jameson