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Communicating Welcome Series Part 2: The Church of YES and NO

It was truly delightful to receive your feedback on my last week’s musing on Welcome, which is something so central to the Gospel of Christ and the understanding of our local mission. I plan to share some common themes of your feedback at the very end of this series.

What do I mean the Church of YES and NO?

Drawing from the conversations I have had with people coming in and going out through our church doors in the last 9 years, many of you have told me, in one way or another, that this church celebrates God’s YES for you and for others: YES that we have a place at the table, and YES that we are worthy to belong. St. Hilda’s takes our welcome seriously in printed and spoken words. Most people receive a warm welcome when they walk through our doors regardless of who they are and who they may have been. Imagine a church bearing an outdoor neon sign saying “YES.”

Like every community, there were times when our neon sign malfunctioned: when new friends, exploring a deeper connection, met up with the NOs — NO, we don't do that here; NO, you have to do it this way; NO, we have always done it like this; NO that isn’t the Anglican way; etc. Often, parishioners did not set out to be mean-spirited. Nonetheless, the damage was done and people were left with feelings of being belittled and their own experience discounted. How could we better orientate seekers and visitors to parish life? If our parish honours doing everything “properly,” how could we bring an attitude of curiosity and openness towards what new people are able to bring? Often, all it takes is for us to pause and put ourselves into people’s shoes before we speak.

Some describe the Anglican Church as a Big Tent while I prefer the image of a Wide River with lots of room for us to swim our different styles and strokes. Let us be conscious of making our church roomy for all to rest in the love of God and to explore the depth of that love.