Before I met my husband, I dated a few people. Watching how they interacted with their mothers was always the deal breaker for me. Once I was invited to dinner by a young man to meet his parents and he assured me I would be welcomed. His mother rarely spoke to either of us, told us to take our plates in the other room, and hardly made eye contact when I left. That was “normal” I remember him trying to explain. Needless to say, I never really interacted with either of them much after that experience.
A little further down the road, I was invited to dinner with a friend who happened to be male, and his mother hugged me so tightly I could barely breathe as she pulled me through the front door. She took me by the hand and encouraged me to help prepare the meal. The entire time, she asked me questions. It didn’t feel like an interrogation at all. It felt like she sincerely wanted to get to know me better. She made eye contact throughout dinner. She regularly reached over and took my hand. When I left, she pulled me in tightly for another hug and I just wanted to rest there in her embrace.
Even after we all knew, the friendship was a gift that would be with us for a lifetime, but the relationship wasn’t going anywhere else… she would invite me over for lunch without her son. Every year at Christmas… still to this day… I get a handwritten note from her. She has encouraged me and made known to me that I was and will ALWAYS be… welcome in her home. I think she may still have our prom picture on her mantle.
Welcome isn’t something that we can make people feel by simply saying the words. Welcome must be used as a verb if we want people to know that they will always be a part of our church families. We want them to feel that comfort of knowing they can rest in the embrace of Christ. We want them to believe that no matter how they walk through our doors, their hearts will always be welcome on our theoretical “mantle.” We have to give them the undivided attention that shows our desire to get to know who they are… we already know WHOSE they are right?
Recently, I took a tour of Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church in Greenville. At the back of this massive sanctuary, there was a row of rocking chairs. This row of chairs is the first thing people see when they enter the sanctuary from the parking lot. Each chair has a large tag that reads, “Reserved for Our Youngest Worshippers to be Rocked.” Think about that for a minute…or a lifetime.
Young families looking for a church home often need support. They are nervous walking through the doors because they know small children bring joyful noises and many opportunities with them. Those rocking chairs prominently placed, must make every young parent exhale, and want to rest in that “embrace.” I teared up a little when I saw them. Just beyond the chairs is a place to nurse if needed in privacy but still being able to remain a part of the service.
This simple but glorious gesture is like that mother pulling me close as she tugged me through the front door. It says, “We see you.” It says, “We want to know you.” It says, “Welcome.” With every rock of the chairs in that row, a parent or grandparent feels the loving embrace of the congregation and the God we serve.
“So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory.” Romans 15:7 MSG
If you would like to view past editions of A Message from Kim, follow this link: https://sounddistrictnc.org/category/from-district-lay-leader/
If you would like to connect with Kim please do so through her email, firstname.lastname@example.org