Friday, May 18, 2007

Discovering God's welcome for all

Thanks to a generous personal donation, we now have a new noticeboard standing sentinel over the churchyard wall on Wolverhampton Street. I say this in the hope that some of you reading this may already have noticed the change! It’s the same colour as before – if you haven’t already cast your eye over it then please do so.

Every church wants to be a welcoming church – or at least thinks it does – but are we? And do we welcome people on our own terms or on theirs? It’s one of the striking features of the gospels that time and again, Jesus reaches out to accept people who were treated as outcastes, untouchable. Hand on heart, few of us have gone the extra mile to do that.

So I’m not easy with saying “we’re a welcoming church.” While some, if not most, may find us so, the bonhomie and sharing may lead to others feeling shut out. If the church is to build trust in community then it has to be willing to speak the truth and avoid offering platitudes.

So we don’t claim to be a welcoming church. But the noticeboard does declare what I think we’re about at St James’s – discovering God’s welcome for all. Let’s face it, any organisation, club or society should have an open doors policy with welcome for all. As the church we’re to do that and more – announce God’s welcome for all – the saving purposes of the God who has made us and begin to live that life together.

At St James’s, we’re not just to announce that welcome – we’ve also to discover it for ourselves. Pilgrims to the shrine of St James at Compostela went under the sign of the scallop shell. The journey across Europe to the remote north-western corner of Spain was long and arduous. But the journey itself was part of the discovery as well as the basilica and shrine and journey’s end.

As pilgrims ourselves we need to find God’s welcome and then learn to share that welcome with others. Meanwhile, travel well!

Fr Andrew



At 8:46 pm, Blogger Tai Chi Girl said...

I have attended St James a few times.

It is neither the least welcoming nor the most welcoming.

What is welcoming:

A real sense that people are trying to achieve something beautiful and inspiring through word, music and liturgy.

People offering friendly but not intrusive conversation.

What is less welcoming:

Accessibility problems, not for me but for particular people with hearing and/or visual impairment.

A bit of a feeling that this is a 'completed' family and that you might have to marry in or get sponsor to join.

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