Sunday, March 04, 2007


Today's action was specially timely for a curate on her travels, as it was to ....

"talk to someone new at church"

So, this morning I was worshipping with a totally unknown congregation here
The friend whom I was visiting was singing in the choir, but connected me with a very pleasant woman who chatted amiably before the service, and then left me to my own devices, which was exactly what I needed. My other neighbour didn't arrive in time to converse, but stayed to listen to the final organ voluntary and we exchanged appreciative comments about it. The standard of music overall was excellent - it's been a while since I was able to listen to Byrd's 5 part Mass f as part of worship, and there was a lovely piece of Tavener, with the sort of endless phrases and eternal echoes he does so well,- so this was a real treat.
I wasn't collared, so felt rather as if I'd caught her by stealth when she compared the worship in chapel with that at her home church where
"We have a lady priest and a piano. I don't know which I dislike more.."
Oh well. It was a throwaway line, with no malicious intent,... but it did remind me of just how careful we need to be when welcoming strangers in our congregations. You never know what their needs or longings might be.
With this in mind, it was good to be able to talk to a new mum and her sons at OpenHouse. As it happens, she has been worshipping with our Baptist neighbours, and I suspect her roots and desires both pull in that direction, - but her boys clearly enjoyed the percussion chaos and the amazing tea (who could fail to?) and at least one other family chatted to them, so I hope she felt that the visit had been a positive and friendly experience.

Another mum at the service this afternoon was still recovering gently from a rather too enthusiastic welcome to the Lent course on Wednesday. It's a really fine line to tread,- when I was church hunting on arrival in London in my distant youth, the first two churches I visited both overdid the welcome. St John the Divine, Kennington, the church that became home and was very much my "forming" church, got it spot on...Friendly smiles and "hello" for 2 weeks, then in week 3 someone actually said
"Well, you've returned twice so you must quite like us...would you like to get to know some of us now?"
Worked a treat.
I stayed there till I got married and moved away.

But of course it's nearly bedtime in the UK, so your chance of refining your welcoming technique this Sunday has probably slipped by. Never mind. If you've any advice or horror stories to share about how best to engage with newcomers, do comment. After all, we'd hate to get it wrong with angels unawares.

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