Friday, 6 July 2012

A Guide to Unwelcoming

In theory, being a church Welcomer is simple. You stand by a (hopefullly) open door, say "Good Morning" (except in the evening) and give people a variety of paper-based worship accessories or, according to tradition, tea lights 'n' pebbles or live chickens.

There are some people who have the spiritual gift of welcoming. They smile naturally and without looking at all weird. They like people. They can sense those that need some extra guidance or attention, and those who are best left alone.

And then there are the people on the welcoming rota because they can't play the organ or pronounce absolution (both of which get you off the list for certain), have no skills in children's work and forgot to sign up for coffee-making.

For these latter people, can I suggest this list of dont's.

"Welcome to St Chad's. The roof's structurally unsound, but if you sit near a pillar you'll probably get away with it."

"Ooh. A new person. Hang on while I check my playlist for unusual events."

"So here's your hymn book, your notice sheet, your service book, the Celtic Liturgy we're using for the Eucharist, a Bible, your additional song sheet, the New Modern Psalter... You can't read? You could have mentioned it earlier."

"And your children can go in the "Schoolroom". We don't actually have a Sunday School, but we don't like having kids in church. They annoy us."

[Whispered] "The vicar's a woman, but don't worry - you'd hardly notice."

"Are you... local?" [Makes note in book] "Not.... local...."

"You haven't wiped your feet."

"Great to see you - we don't have many black people at our church. You're all so lively in worship, aren't you? Brilliant!"

"It's the Youth Group leading an All Age Service. The vicar may encourage them, but you can shoot me now so far as I'm concerned..."

"Have a book. Have a sheet. Pews are that way. NOT THAT ONE!"

"Welcome to St Shirley's. Would you like a Gift-Aid form and a Standing Order?"

"Oh no. Not another old one."

"We've modern language, modern music and an informal style. Frankly, I hate it. Minute the service starts, I'm out of here."


  1. Idealistic welcome:

    Hello, welcome to St *****. My name is*****, and your is?

    The service is starting in about 10 minutes. Would you like on of our greetings cards, which tells you a little about us and what is happening in this service?

    We have projectors and screens, so you can follow the service on them and join in as you wish.

    Please feel free to sit wherever you are comfortable, I will be sitting over there, so if you like, you can join me and we can worship together.

    Don't worry to much about standing or kneeling or sitting, just follow what I am doing.

    We have a collection during the Offertory Hymn.

    We have refreshments available after the service, where we normally gather for a chat and eat and drink together. If you like, you could stay and meet some of our parishioners and get to know us a little better.

    Normal Welcome:

    Here's your books, sit anywhere and just follow what's going on.

    1. I'd be running screaming just as your ideal welcomer told me what his/her name was.

  2. I have a question on the thorny issues of vestments. Is a beard mandatory?

    1. Only among male Greek Orthodox clergy. It's option for the female ones.

  3. He, he, I was a new person at a parish evensong once. At the end of the service the woman next to me said 'Are you new? The vicar says we have to welcome new people.' She was a nice person but painfully shy.

    I moved around churches for a while but it was exhausting being welcomed all the time.

    My local Cathedral used to pride itself on its ministry of not welcoming. People could come and be assured that no-one will try and welcome them. There was also no attempt to try to explain or convert them to Christianity- in case it upset people. As 'they don't come here for that'. In fact a few years ago they managed to produce a mission statement which didn't mention the C word at all.

    Cathedrals generally are good places if you want to avoid being welcomed.

  4. For a number of years, I visited relatives in a distant city, and, if my visit extended over a Sunday, attended a service at a church near their apartment. Overall, I rather liked that church, but when it came to welcoming strangers, they had some unfamiliar practices. Being welcomed by the priest in full regalia so everyone could turn around and gawk at me more openly was a little startling, since I was more used to the greeter-at-the-door method - "Good morning", while thrusting reading material at you version. But the priest had a good memory. He remembered me next time I showed up, which must have been a year or more later. Then again, I stood out a bit. There were only two other white people in the entire place, and since they were participating in the processions, they were obviously well-known members of the parish.

    On the other hand, the time I sat in a pew reserved for someone else - an usher, maybe? - and had to move was a little embarassing but less public than having the priest ask all kinds of welcoming questions about who I was and where I was from.

    1. Cheryl, if you don't want everyone to turn round and gawp, i suggest you don't turn up in full regalia.

  5. I have been fretting over this beard question. I think if vestments are worn then the beard should be in the correct matching liturgical colour.

    But, apart from the situation Cheryl describes I have never been in a church where the welcomers wear vestments as well as beards.

    Also, I feel very nervous about even suggesting the Archdruid wears a beard never mind what style.

  6. I wear a beard, but never welcome in Vestments - probably because I'm not Clergy. I suspect that the Ministry of Welcome (as it is described) is more about common sense and humanity than any prescribed routine.

    I work on the basis of "If I were new here - what would I expect"? and go from there.

  7. Somehow I always feel welcome in Tesco's and M&S and Wilkinsons and hotels and so on.

    Of course Tesco's and M&S and Wilkinsons and hotels want my money and want me to come back. Oh, so does the church..........

    1. But the church wants you to come back even if you don't have money, doesn't it? This fellowship excepted, of course.

    2. Um, not really ime. Only if you sit at the back and keep very quiet and obey orders. So you can be a token poor person that they can minister to.

  8. Maybe that's a bit harsh. Maybe. On the other hand I don't remember ever being made to feel Tesco's etc didn't want me back when I went out without spending anything.

  9. I haven't gotten that feeling since they stopped posting up lists of parishioners and how much each one donated to the church in the previous year in the church porch, and that was a long, long time ago. At least it was around here.


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