All across the United Church of Christ, congregations are getting ready for company as we prepare to celebrate Each One Bring One Sunday on November 6th. It’s a good time to think and pray about welcoming guests.
I’m just back from a stay at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska, where our staff took part in the annual gathering of Conference staffs from the West Central Region. A highlight of every visit to the St. Benedict Center is the opportunity to join the monks for Morning Prayer. The brothers of Christ the King Priory are spectacular welcomers! We’ve always appreciated, on previous visits, that one of the brothers will see us come into the chapel and, without speaking, warmly gesture us to a pew, open a prayer book for each of us to the correct page, and hold up his hymnal to show us the first hymn of that day’s service.
At this visit, the brothers surpassed themselves in hospitality! One morning, a brother passed us in his car as we walked toward the chapel building. By the time we arrived, he was already standing by our seats, smiling broadly, gesturing in welcome, with our prayer books and hymnals already laid out and ready. This whole grand welcome was offered, in the brothers’ custom, without speaking a single word. On Each One Bring One Sunday, may each of our congregations’ guests be welcomed so completely!
I trust that many of you have already invited someone to worship with you on November 6th and that many more of us are getting ready to make that invitation. The Each One Bring One page at www.ucc.org offers some good numbers for those of us who need a bit of encouragement to get our invitation started:
Research suggests that three out of four people attend a church for the first time because they were invited. However, less than two percent of church members will ever invite someone to church. If only 10 percent of the more than 1.1 million UCC members bring a friend to church Nov. 6, some 110,000 additional visitors will be welcomed in church that day.
The Each One Bring One page at www.ucc.org also has some wonderful resources for getting ready for company under the heading “hospitality basics”. I am honored to visit one of the congregations on the east side of the Iowa Conference nearly every Sunday and these visits often prompt me to think about such hospitality basics. I’m not a “newbie” to worshipping in UCC congregations, and even I occasionally wonder on my worship visits about such things as the words used for common prayers and sung responses, the way communion will be received, and (at the end of a long drive) the location of rest rooms.
Getting ready for company means taking a look at a visit to your congregation for Sunday morning worship through the eyes of someone who has not only never visited your congregation but who may not have visited ANY congregation for Sunday worship. Getting ready for company will mean taking a look at your Sunday morning worship service and planning ways that each portion of the service can be simply and clearly explained to guests.
If your congregation will offer Holy Communion on the 6th, your best welcome will include simple and very clear explanations of what you understand Holy Communion to be, who is welcome to share in the meal, what form of bread and cup are offered (wheat? gluten free? wine? grape juice?), and how the meal will be received.
If your usual Sunday morning worship bulletin includes such lines as “Gloria”, “Doxology”, or “Lord’s Prayer”, your best welcome will include either the printed words or a reference to a page in the hymnal.
If you’ll be receiving an offering during the worship, your best welcome might include a simple explanation of how this money is used. Some congregations include in their welcome a note that guests may make an offering, but – as guests of the congregation – are not expected to do so.
A bit of extra polishing, fresh flowers, comfort and ease for small children, smiles full of Christ-light, open hymnals, easy instructions … these are good days to add to your congregation’s “getting ready for company” checklist. Bring your great ideas to worship with you this Sunday and get ready to surpass yourselves in hospitality on Each One Bring One Sunday, November 6th.