Friday, 17 December 2010

The welcoming church 3: Welcome - a simple and elementary matter...

I do love my research sometimes, especially when I come across such gems as the following entry from Kirkwall U.P. Church, 1894, re. elders and church welcome:

'they are not there for the mere purpose of standing at the plate, but for the purpose of giving a kindly welcome to the worshippers as they pass - were it but a pleasant smile or nod of recognition.  A shake of the hand would not be out of place....This would show the kind of interest which...elders are expected to take in the membership of the congregation....All of us should do what we can to promote each other's comfort, to encourage each other in well-doing, and to foster the spirit of brotherly love.  These are simple and elementary matters, but we require to be reminded of them.'

Seems the difficulties involved with regard to the 'simple and elementary matter' of welcome is no new thing!  Perhaps it's the raging extrovert in me, but I really don't see how difficult it is to welcome folks when they dare to cross the threshold... but it does remind me of a story.

I remember visiting a church [that shall be nameless] for a particular service held annually.  Dragged a pal along and we walked in and sat in the back pew [so we would know when to sit, stand, etc].  An older woman wandered in, stopped at the pew we were sitting in, fixed us with a baleful glare, made a loud choking noise of displeasure and then rather unhappily plonked herself into the pew in front of us, shaking her head.  Friend and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, a bare glimmer of a smile, and together had the unspoken thought that we were, perhaps not this woman's flavour of the month.  Several minutes later, another woman, similar age, also wandered in, stopped at the end of the pew momentarily, and then spotted her friend - woman in front of us.  She waved and then sat next to friend, who muttered rather loudly 'we're having to slum it in this pew - ours is taken.'  Cue eyebrows in pew behind being raised even higher.
For sheer devillment, I tapped the woman on the shoulder and said in incredibly apologetic tones, and with the most sincerity that I could muster: 'Goodness, I'm terribly sorry, I couldn't help but overhear what you said.  We're visitors here and really don't know the drill.  We didn't realise this was your pew - would you like us to move?'
Said woman was about to open her mouth with what I think would have been a 'yes, get out of my pew' comment, when her friend turned around, gave us a huge smile, welcomed us to the church, made sure we had orders of service, invited us for the post-church cheese and wine, and said 'my dear, no, not at all.  There's no such thing as 'my pew' - we do normally sit there, but it will be good for us to sit somewhere else.  We hope you enjoy the service.'  Utter graciousness.  Although her friend was simultaneously giving her a death glare....

Many are called.
Few are chosen.
Some get seats.
Others get death-glares.

Welcome to the church... you're in my pew.


Wendy said...

Good reminder. Great story!

spotthegerbil said...

And it came to pass in the year before the one that the census was called that a traveller from the east (Crail) came to the city of Gordon (Brown) and did sit upon the pew at the back. And then the pew-warmer did enter, and realising that there was no room at the pew didst utter "It's my pew! Look, there's my hymn book." And lo, it was revealed to those gathered, a hymn book, (possibly a CH4, for in the CofS they wrap not their bibles) lovingly wrapped in brown paper. And those gathered saw the wrapping, saw it was good, (or at least a better wrapping job than they could have done) and the hymn book was passed forward.

And so the traveller from Crail was made to feel unwelcome, but didst console himself with the packet of strong mints (some translations say Trebor mints) that the pew-warmer had left behind.

And he listened to the sermon, and heard it was good, but shook the dust from his shoes as he left. For it is written...

"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town"

Some names and places changed to protect the guilty, but t's a similar welcome to the one received when the Gerbils went church visiting a Christmas or two ago.