|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on November 17, 2021 at 6:30 PM|
Dear St. Alban’s,
It’s time for a reboot. A friendliness reboot.
When I first arrived three years ago, this was an area we identified that needed immediate attention. While the congregation was quite friendly with one another, I became aware of some occasions when newcomers were not greeted or made to feel welcome. Seeing the huge heart this parish has, I knew this was something we could tackle together. So we did.
We recruited an intergenerational team of Greeters to be stationed at every entrance and welcome every soul who entered our doors. We wore our nametags religiously (ha!), sought out people we didn’t recognize, and introduced ourselves. These new relationships were cultivated into deeper friendships through activities like the poetry group, supper clubs, or outreach activities. I was so proud of the progress we were making!
Then came the pandemic. We had to shut our doors and worship exclusively online for many months. It wasn’t ideal, but our online gatherings sustained us until it was safe to meet in person again.
When that day came, we did not all rush back into the building. We tiptoed. Some were more than ready, others were not. Some are still not. But since April, we have settled into a comfortable new routine of in-person worship and livestreaming. We tolerate the masks and we miss the wine, but we know these changes are temporary and in place to protect the most vulnerable. We rejoice that our choir can sing and our children and youth can go to Sunday School.
Yet, we have not managed to recapture the friendly momentum we had going before March 20202. Many newcomers have visited our parish over the past several months, and a good number of them have stayed and become new members. But some have struggled to get to know people here. Some have remarked that not many people have said hello to them.
I think this is, in part, because we all feel like newcomers right now. Life is different and we are seeking the familiar. Too often, we gravitate to the people we already know rather than making effort to get to know the people we don’t recognize.
Imagine, though, that you were trying to engage with a new community right now. Do you remember what it felt like to be a newcomer? It is crucial to our mission as followers of Jesus that we always seek to welcome the stranger.
I want St. Alban’s to be known as the friendliest church in Lake Norman, or even in all of North Carolina. Why shouldn’t we be? We have a community full of amazing and faithful people who love God and love others. We can do this.
If we are going to see this vision become a reality, we are going to need all hands on deck. So I am officially deputizing each and every member of our parish as a Greeter.
It does not matter how old you are or how long you’ve been attending worship here. You are hereby a greeter. You are empowered to extend a heartfelt welcome everyone you see, especially those you do not recognize. You are empowered to introduce yourself and get to know each other. I know it feels awkward to do this in masks, and it makes it more challenging to remember names and faces. But we’ve got try. We’ve got to do better.
To lead this effort, we will once again be recruiting a team of Lead Greeters to be stationed at the doors on Sundays before our 10:30 a.m. service. If you would like to take part in this ministry, please let Jessica Ewell know. Your ministry is very much needed, especially as we head into the holidays.
And even if you are not able to sign up to be a Lead Greeter, remember that you are still a Greeter, by virtue of your attendance at St. Alban’s. To become a friendlier church where nobody goes unwelcomed, all of us must be willing to do our part.
I have faith in us. We are already a church where all are welcome. And I know we can be a church where all are warmly welcomed. It’s subtle, but there’s a difference. Thank you for your willingness to help St. Alban’s reboot and grow in this area. I love you all so much and I am so grateful for you.
Yours in Christ,