Do you remember the first time you ever came to St. Peter’s? Did anyone greet you or introduce themselves? Perhaps you were not only new to our church, but new to the Episcopal Church, and really felt out of place. I hope you were made to feel welcome and that’s why you are here today. Unfortunately, my first visit 21 years ago was a very different experience. The usher on duty that morning actually grabbed the service leaflet that I had picked up and told me I could not have it…that it was for the next service! Fortunately, a member of the clergy intervened by introducing himself, handing me the leaflet, and inviting me to go with him for coffee before the next service. That warm welcome overcame a terrible experienced that almost caused me to leave and never return.
The Congregational Development Ministry Area, with which I serve as Vestry coordinator, is focused on welcoming and connecting newcomers to the life of St. Peter’s. Led by Cooper Morrison, this team organizes welcoming hosts on Sundays, hosts periodic newcomer coffee hours, and seeks other ways to make sure that every newcomer feels welcomed and connected to the life of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. In the coming year we hope to offer programs to help people learn about their spiritual gifts, enabling all parishioners to become engaged in meaningful ways.
You, too, participate in this ministry when you make a point of introducing yourself to someone you do not know or invite them to go with you to coffee hour.
Welcoming the visitor is how we each can help make a reality St. Peter’s vision to provide a “radical welcome.” “I was hungry and you gave me food… I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” –Matthew 25: 35
– Nelda Leon, Vestry Member