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Lamplighter - Fr. Ralph

posted Oct 29, 2015, 12:42 PM by St. Thomas Church   [ updated Mar 27, 2019, 7:20 AM ]

I was recently challenged to consider the difference between being welcoming and being inviting.  They are not the same.  St. Thomas can be welcoming by preparing our building and congregation to welcome new people who visit.  These are good things to do.  It is prudent for us to have a clean, well taken care of building to give a good impression of ourselves and hopefully of God.  It is fitting that when new people visit our church that we engage them in conversation and help them to feel welcome.  It is good to be a welcoming church, but it is not the same as being an inviting church. To be welcoming, we put certain strategies in place and then we wait.  I don’t imagine that is what Jesus did. He did not build a structure on Mt. Tabor or on the Mount of the Beatitudes and then wait for people to come.  He went out and engaged the world around him.

It is not easy to consider inviting others to be a part of the church.  To begin with this leads us to think about what the church is and why we are here.  Even more thought provoking is considering talking with other people and inviting them into what St. Thomas has to offer.  Where do I do this?  What words do I use?  What if I say something wrong?  What if I come across too pushy?  Why should I do something that is uncomfortable? 

Sunday, I was asked if we could start a group for people who have been widowed.  I think the idea was to address a need within the church.  If we had such a group and you met someone at the grocery store who recently lost a spouse, would it be difficult to invite them to that small group?  If you had a conversation at work with someone about the pressures of this life and expressed the need for peace, would you consider inviting them to worship with you?  I read an article that made some suggestions for churches who are hoping to be invitational.  Here is the first suggestion. “Try using the phrase ‘my church’ in a conversation with one person each week.”  Let’s be welcoming and inviting.