Last week I decided to visit a church that I had come across on one of my long neighborhood runs. I love “my” church, but some Sundays my schedule calls for a church closer to home. Still, I am never comfortable when I am visiting churches.
I did my research on their website, dressed up a bit more than I usually do, and headed out the door with plenty of time to get there.
I arrived at about 7:50 for the 8:00 service, and there were no other cars in the parking lot. I’m used to people arriving just in time for the service at my church, but as a visitor it is a bit disconcerting. There was a man sweeping the sidewalk, so I knew the church was open at least. I waited for a few cars to arrive and made my way to the sanctuary.
The service followed Rite I in The Book Of Common Prayer. I’m more familiar with Rite II, and tried to remember to follow along in the prayer book instead of saying the (wrong) words by heart. I’m pretty sure I messed up every sit-stand-kneel option–that’s what I get for sitting towards the front when most people were seated towards the back!
On my way out, both the priest and assistant greeted me, chatted with me, and gave me a “welcome package” with a brochure and information about the church and church activities. It was a sharp contrast to the other church near my house, where I have visited many times without getting more than a “good morning” on my way out.
I have mixed feelings about how much attention churches “should” give to visitors. Sometimes people just want to worship anonymously and be left alone. Most people don’t want to be called out during the service–I know that would make me very uncomfortable. But I think some effort should be made to welcome a visitor. Maybe a heartfelt “good morning” is all that’s needed. But maybe more effort should be made to figure out what brought the person to church that day–are they from out of town? looking for a new church? hoping for relief from a heavy heart?
How does your church welcome visitors?
How would you like to be welcomed?