It has been great to be back in the office the last couple of days after a fun family vacation in Chicago. Last Sunday our family attended a church in Chicago. We went to the 11 o’clock service, which gave us time to ride a train north to wave at Wrigley Field and take pictures on our way to worship. By the time we finally got to the church one of the youngest in our group had to use the restroom in a profound way. After we got off the train she and I walked out ahead of the rest of our group and entered the church by ourselves.
As we walked through the doors of the church, roughly 20 minutes before the service was scheduled to start, I saw 6 or 8 people standing around a table visiting. No one acknowledged us. I poked my head around corners, and in doors, trying to find a sign for a restroom. No one acknowledged us. I saw stairs and an arrow that said “office,” and assuming there might be a restroom upstairs we went upstairs. No one acknowledged us.
I share this story because it was a striking illustration of a church missing an opportunity. What if we hadn’t been who we were, but rather were two people unsure of whether going to church really mattered or made a difference? The lack of acknowledgment won’t impact my long-term relationship with Christ, but I imagine that there are some people, skeptical of Christianity, and unsure about God, who only need one experience of being ignored at church to confirm that the church isn’t worth their time.
When we are blessed with guests who walk through our doors at Topeka First UMC it is my hope and prayer that they will be acknowledged, greeted with intentionality, and made to feel welcome. From time to time I hear people say something along the lines of, “I don’t know them, but maybe they go to a different service, maybe they have been coming to the church longer than I have, I don’t want to say anything and embarrass myself.” Please err on the side of warmth and friendliness and hospitality. Please greet people, look them in the eye, tell them good morning. Please understand that people coming through our doors potentially need to encounter the love of God in Christ and that the welcome they receive from us matters in how they experience God in our midst.
Finally, as a quick reminder, next Sunday, February 19th is Miracle Sunday. We will be giving gifts to a special one-time offering that will enable us to make needed upgrades in the sanctuary and the chapel. If you haven’t yet decided what you’ll be able to contribute, please give that prayerful consideration in the next week. Also, if you haven’t yet signed up for the celebratory lunch following you can do that in worship on Sunday or by simply responding to this email.
I hope that you have had a good week and I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday as our youth lead us in all three worship services for Youth Sunday. All three services will be held in the sanctuary and I trust will be a meaningful and inspirational time of worship.