Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church

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Clergy Corner

Invite, Welcome, Connect

  • The Rev. Bob Dannals
  • Jul 19, 2017
  • Category: General
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As we gather week by week at Holy Innocents' Church for worship, study, formation and outreach, it is worth remembering the words of William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s: "The Christian Church is the only organization in the world that exists purely for the benefit of those who don't yet belong to it." In complex and conflicted times such as these, it is easy to lose sight of the Great Commission from our Lord to "go and make disciples" and of the pervasive call in Scripture for us to share in God's mission for the healing of the world.

By now, we all must know the hard facts -- that mainline denominations have lost a high percentage of members over the past 50 years, and the current landscape of young adults doesn't show signs of that improving any time soon. Recent data shows that nearly 35% of those under 35 have no interest in organized religion and those who do consider themselves "religious" don't anticipate attending church worship services very often. That's gloomy news, but I believe we are given this period to become again the church our Lord envisioned -- a community that welcomes the stranger, that seeks and serves the lost, that finds ever more creative ways to draw people into the reign of God's love. For too long, we have been content to do things in comfortable, familiar ways.

At Holy Innocents', this congregation has increasingly used a phrase we've heard around the church -- that our mission is to offer all comers a "radical welcome." Inviting, welcoming and connecting are at the core of the Christian way -- welcoming new people and those who are disaffected into our midst and discovering, when we do, that they bring immense gifts with them. It is our vocation, Henri Nouwen once wrote, to convert "hostis," the fearful, defensive hostility of our world, into "hospes," a place of abundance, companionship and the spirit of Christ.

What a mission we've been given -- to be agents of God's radical welcome. To that end, the Vestry acting during retreat this past winter, decided to inaugurate an exciting national program at Holy Innocents': "Invite, Welcome, Connect." This program is intended to incorporate the very fine welcoming ministries already in existence and expand them into a parish-wide pattern of a warm and inviting welcome on all fronts.

On Friday night and Saturday morning, August 25 and 26, we hold our first training sessions on "Invite, Welcome and Connect." Marta Holden of Charlotte, a seasoned new member ministry lay leader will lead the sessions. Thanks to Bill Clark and Jay Mason, Co-Chairs of this new effort, we have identified a group of parishioners to attend and then lead this initiative. In addition to the set group, any parishioners interested in knowing more about this program and participating, are invited to attend the training sessions. Please contact Melody McNeil if you are interested in the program and if you'd like to attend the initial sessions.

To call our welcome "radical" is to shift our pattern and alter our culture from one of "my people only," to a much broader invitation and incorporation of people. Join us in this exciting venture!

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