Being made welcome?
One of the attractions of becoming part of a church family is how you are welcomed in and can feel that you belong- my local church in Princes Risborough is usually very good and giving newcomers a very warm welcome where you can feel that you are wanted and are made to feel part of an extended family. Sadly however, that is not always the case with churches.
I was recently re-reading the excellent memoirs of the Rev Richard Coles -Vicar of Finedon (Northamptonshire) -who was talking about how he moved from his sex and drugs rock and roll lifestyle as one part of The Communards into becoming a Christian.
Richard was feeling what he called “twinges towards religion” and going through a deep personal crisis “I felt, in crisis an almost overpowering yearning for the feeling of peace that I had experienced sitting in chapel when I was young”. However, he had a problem: he was and is gay and as he remarked:
“The Christian Church was the enemy; in a general sense, the defender of reaction, obfuscation and distributor of opium to the people; in a specific sense, the most implacable enemy of gay liberation, the most consistent in opposition to the liberalisation of law and culture and not a place of welcome”.
Thankfully, Richard took the plunge, and not only did he find his place as part of a church family ,but he later became Ordained and is, in my book, one of the most impressive and passionate defenders of the Christian faith in this country.
However, a point he makes that is sadly still the case today in some church communities is how unwelcome some people are made to feel in church (his quip is that “some of us were, and are, as welcome as ‘Typhoid Mary’ at a parish lunch”) just because they are different in some way – they might be Lesbian, Gay or Transgender, or they could be Black, Asian, Disabled or just ‘different’ from the majority of people.
At our church our mission statement is bold and clear: “Sharing the love of Christ with all”. That last word “all” is so important – we make no exceptions-no matter how different someone may be, we pledge to share Christ’s love with them. Like Jesus himself who embraced people who were different (tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers etc), the whole church family needs to welcome with open arms, hearts and minds those people who perhaps we don’t understand, agree with, or can accept. We have to do that because Jesus demands that of us. So, Share your love. And do it now!