Now in the advent, in the waiting, for offers to be made and the hypothetical to become real, I bring back to you the great gift of this time, something that I had forgotten in only three short years: the feeling of being brand new to a community.
I bring back reminders to point out the rest rooms, where the sanctuary is (you’d be surprised!), and to open your stance so that others who are standing near might be able to slide into your conversation, rather than awkwardly stir their coffee alone. I bring back hopes that if a minister forgets to announce to stand for a hymn, or explain when to sit, or how to applaud (with waving hands, with clapping hands, by sitting on your hands despite wanting to shout with gratitude and glee), you will lovingly assist in the communication of our rituals. I return, refreshed, with stories found about members of all ages on bulletin boards that connected me to the lives of the congregation without ever meeting folks face-to-face. I return remembering what it was like to be new, and hoping you will make it a spiritual practice to do the same.
In the words of Richard Gilbert,
We bid you welcome, who come with weary spirit seeking rest. Who come with troubles that are too much with you, Who come hurt and afraid. We bid you welcome, who come with hope in your heart. Who come with anticipation in your step, Who come proud and joyous. We bid you welcome, who are seekers of a new faith. Who come to probe and explore. Who come to learn. We bid you welcome, who enter this hall as a homecoming, Who have found here room for your spirit. Who find in this people a family. Whoever you are, whatever you are, Wherever you are on your journey, We bid you welcome.
What do you remember about the first time driving to this place, parking your car, walking through these doors? How much courage did you need to companion your vulnerability? And what would it feel like to intentionally remember these moments each Sunday before gathering once again in what is now your home? We bid you welcome. Let our welcome be felt and seen and known.