Sunday, April 15, 2007

Welcome!

I visited another local parish this morning, and I'm trying not to jump too far ahead of myself, but I may have found my new home. I have never ever ever been to a church as friendly and welcoming and hospitable as this one. I was greeted at the door by an usher who greeted me with a smile and gave me a bulletin. After three more steps, two greeters stood next to the guest register, smiled, greeted me, shook my hand, and asked if there was anything they could do to help me. My daughter and I took our pew, reviewed the order of service, and marked the pages for our hymns. A couple sat down in front of us, turned and said, "I don't know if we've met before. I'm Mrs. X." They smiled and shook our hands and welcomed us - as did two other couples and one woman attending by herself. And best of all, at the announcement time, we were not asked to stand up and identify ourselves.

The liturgy was well executed. The acolytes were well trained and synchronized, the music was exquisite, and there were little touches that clearly showed the deep love and reverence that both clergy and lay here have for the work of the people. The sermon was breathtaking, and the eucharist was transporting. And there were sanctus bells, which you don't often get here in Southern Virginia! And even better, we chanted the psalm! I was in heaven.

At the end of the service, after the final hymn ended, and we responded to the dismissal with joyous Alleluias, a voice behind me said my name. I turned, and there was a mother of one the munchkins' classmates at their elementary school. They'd participated in two Destination Imagination teams with this young lady before, so it was great to see her and her family again. The postlude was wonderful, and I really wanted to stay and listen to it, but there was a more pressing mundane need.

I made sure to tell the priest at the door how impressed I was by their practice of hospitality, and I will be sure to remark on this to the rector as well. It is very clear that this parish is deeply committed to welcoming everyone who enters, that they are living out the love and care Jesus taught. I want to be part of that, lousy as I am at stepping out of my comfort zone to greet people I don't know. But hey - if I never step out of my comfort zone, then how will I ever grow?