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The Ongoing Welcome

Last Sunday lots of churches did 'Back To Church Sunday' or the BUGB version (because Baptists had objected to the words 'back', 'to' 'church' and 'Sunday'!) 'The Bigger Welcome'.  We didn't.  Not because we or I am opposed to it - we did it quite effectively in Dibley.  And not because I'd already booked it as a 'free' Sunday. We didn't do it because, without meaning to be arrogant, we do it anyway.  Granted, we aren't all always inviting people to come (or come back) to church/events/activities on Sunday/any day, but we do seem to understand the whole thing about welcome.

Sunday coming is our harvest thanksgiving service, when we will be supporting Operation Agri and Glasgow City Mission.  We also have a student soup lunch which has been organised with great enthusiasm by various folk... including one who has been with us for two weeks!  One thing that visitors to the Gathering Place comment on is the sense of welcome they receive, and many mention the welcoming atmosphere too.  Not everyone comes back - some are seeking a more lively or charismatic style of worship, some seek a more prescriptive style of preaching, some are just passing through anyway - but no one ever runs out of the door the moment the blessing ends because it has been simply too awful for words.

We're not perfect - I've been grouched at by stewards, and I've occasionally seen visitors standing alone clutching their mug of tea - but we do our best to make sure that welcome is for life, not just for B2CS.  I'm not claiming any uniqueness about that, just a sense that whilst B2CS is a good start, it's what comes next that really matters... which is why we need to work hard to sustain our new student connections.


  • "Welcome" is an interesting concept, isn't it? When we had a building, we always thought of our selves as a 'welcoming' church. The waifs and strays of Openshaw always felt at home. But for anyone more used to churchiness, Mersey Street always felt threatening and our liberal ethos drove many away.
    And, of course, the lack of heating hardly made for a warm welcome!

    Now, of course, we have no where to welcome folk to. I am working on a new website which will have a calendar telling folk where we are, but who, in all honesty, is going to turn up as a stranger at my house one Sunday morning?

    So have we stopped being welcoming? I hope not - and welcome is certainly one of the central tenets of what we will seek to build in future, but I do have to keep asking the question.

  • Firstly, I've been away and have just caught up with your postings over the past few weeks. I'm so sorry to hear your news, so moved by some of your posts; I'll be praying for you.

    We did the big welcome in Bromley and it was a little surreal because although no one came as a result of being invited, about a dozen or more turned up out of the blue - many from overseas (either living in Bromley or visiting friends here).

    So, it was a real test of the welcome we offer since most of these folk did not come with a church member able to show them the ropes, lead them to coffee, introduce them to people.

    My struggle with the Big welcome or Back to Church Sunday is that it risks puting folk on their best behaviour for one week in 52 rather than encouraging them to learn the ways of hospitality. It makes welcome into just another programme we offer and not a way of living we have learned from Jesus.

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