St. Timothy’s is a Remarkable Group of People
Greetings St. Timothy’s Church:
What a month March has been in our church’s life! You know, one of the great joys about being the new guy around here is that I have had constant opportunities to simply listen. Perhaps it’s been listening to your suggestions and ideas about how to improve our shared life together; or perhaps it’s listening to stories of God’s faithfulness in your own personal lives. But all this listening has only affirmed what I remember Fr. Remer saying to me: St. Timothy’s is a remarkable group of people first and a place of worship second. Too true, Doug.
You know though, good things don’t stay hidden for long and I’ll admit that I’ve been delighted, but certainly not surprised, to meet a number of new people joining us for Sunday services. I’m not talking about people who’ve been away a while either (though it’s been great to welcome some of them too!). No, I’m talking about people who have never stepped foot inside our church but who are coming to look for a Christian community to call home.
In truth, knowing this should keep us watchful for new people who continue to join us. Does it mean we need to completely change what we do and how we do it? No; in fact, I don’t think it’s the big things that matter half as much as the small, but deliberate, things we do to make newcomers feel at home. It might be a smiling face or a helpful comment; it might be asking their name or how they’ve come to join us today; it might be helping someone navigate our liturgy or offering a personal invitation to coffee hour.
Folks, you wouldn’t believe how these little gestures make all the difference for a new person or new family as they consider whether to join us. I think we’re tempted to think it’s just about the worship service itself – that they either like what we do or they don’t. Now, I’m not saying this doesn’t play a part in the decision, but what I definitely know from experience is that most newcomers are willing to go along with most anything if they can see the effect the worship itself has on the established congregation.
Saying that reminds me of Pau’s words in 1 Corinthians 13. He says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
The truth is St. Timothy’s can be a lot of things, but if we aren’t authentic in our desire to love God and our [new] neighbors as ourselves then what are we? I know full-well that we have a gifted team of greeters and ushers working hard to spot new faces and welcome them. But an issue this important calls for all hands on deck! For as much as it is the small things that draw people into a church, it’s usually even smaller things that can send them heading for the door, permanently. Having personally experienced such a warm greeting myself from this church, I know that every one of you can do it – the key is that we actually do it together.