One question with COVID was: ‘What will it be like when we are able to welcome people back to worship, and to our hall usage (the larger community)?’
An article from the Alban Institute (Duke Divinity School) reminded the community of our image of Christianity in West, along with a challenge of ‘how effective are we in inviting those of different abilities.’
I wish to focus on both aspects: ‘our parish life of worship’ and ‘our parish hall.’
Most colleagues, when asked how the return to in-house worship has gone, will remark, ‘about 70%.’ St. John’s would agree. The haunting question for most is, ‘how do we care for the other 30%?’
How do we reach the people not attending? Do ‘on-line worship’ services, do it? What type of electronic worship attracts you? Are ‘on-line worship’ services attractive to people? There are so many questions. Then, when people do return, how are they received? There are so many questions.
Here at St. John’s, I am thankful for the opportunities we have to welcome people into our sanctuary and help them feel welcome. I have always been a proponent of members of the leadership team being available to welcome visitors. If you attend a major gathering in many public assembly places, they usually take the opportunity to welcome the gathering.
There were similar questions in relation to our Parish Hall. ‘Would our usual users return after COVID?’ The answer, I believe to our surprise, is a simple, ‘Yes.’ Thankfully, we were able to continue some programs during COVID, (considered pastoral ministry—as in 12-Step programs, and Seniors’ Exercise.)
I was delighted when we were able to have other programs return, some of which especially serve people on the margins. I am proud of the many programs in our parish hall which provide access and involvement to people of differing abilities and cultures. Recently, we were able to provide our facility for vegetable pre-cooking preparation for a community Christmas meal. In February we will also open our facility for a ‘Senior’s Soup & Sandwich’ program.
As a parish, we continue to work towards being more inclusive. God calls us to renew, and restore, God’s people. Although we may have limitations, we are able to challenge those limitations and discover new ways to serve and accommodate.
This all brings to mind a wonderful contemporary hymn based on Matthew 25.44-45, “Where You There When I Needed a Neighbour” by Sydney Bertram Carter.
The hymn’s opening lines are:
‘When I needed a neighbour
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
And the creed and the colour
And the name won't matter
Were you there?’
The verses continue to ask: ‘Hungry and Thirsty; Cold and Naked; Shelter and Healer.’
Will we be there? I believe we will be—making room for all people—no questions asked.
Blessings for this week,