Practicing Radical Welcome

A weekly Rector’s Notes article, Monday August 12, 2019

St. Stephen’s is a warm and welcoming place. I noticed this on the first Sunday I was here (nearly one year ago!), and I constantly see this practice of radical welcome whenever someone new is in our midst. Our practice of radical welcome is organic, natural, it is simply a part of our identity that we live into every Sunday. However, I know that we can do more with this natural propensity towards being radically welcome of all, I know that we can become a place that is not just internally welcoming but one that outwardly expresses our radical welcome in all that we do and offer to our community.

There is a method of attracting and then keeping new comers in the Episcopal Church called Invite-Welcome-Connect. It relies on equal buy-in to all three components and challenges us to go at the pace of the visitor, rather than the pace that we are comfortable with.

To invite people is the first and often most-terrifying (but why? We know and love this place so deeply, why wouldn’t we want to share it with others?) step. Without a personal invitation to church, the vast majority of people will not darken the doors.

To welcome is more than saying hello on the Sunday morning a person decides to try us out. It is about connecting with that individual, it is about hearing their needs in a place of worship, it is about helping them find a home in our community.

To connect is the final piece and is the part where we move deeper, connecting the visitor with opportunities for formation, for learning about St. Stephen’s and the larger Episcopal tradition (if they’re unfamiliar).

This model of inviting, welcoming, connecting has many components to it and relies on a number of people in the parish filling ministry roles. The good news is, many of those roles are already being filled, but that person might not know it yet!

This year, we will work together as a parish to increase our ability to meet the needs of newcomers. To start by personally inviting them to join us. To welcome them in a specific manner that enables us to enfold them into the life of our community. To connect them with what they need to be spiritually fed in their journey of faith. Part of this new approach will be forming a Welcome and Hospitality Task Force. Through their work, we will do an audit of our ability to welcome, and come away with a new understanding of how we can evolve what we already do to meet the needs of those who come to visit with us. If you are interested in serving with this Task Force or as part of a welcome team, please let me know!

I look forward to expanding the radical welcome of this place with your help!

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