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What does welcoming have to do with lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!)?

Well, the small group which just represented Emmanuel Church at the European Institute of Christian Studies' seminar on Invite, Welcome, Connect could give you the answer. We were lucky enough to hear the wisdom that the invited speaker, Mary Parmer, and other European Episcopal parishes had to share regarding how they best invite, welcome, and connect with newcomers, including allowing them to, "Spell Episcopal with the alphabet of their souls." One of the most salient pieces of advice shared with us, included a re-definition of Evangelism into to the simple reframe of, "Evangelism is about listening to others, and sharing the faith that is in you." It was the LISTEN, part of the definition that struck us. Traditionally, we think of evangelism as a process of us extending a welcome, or somehow spiritually casting a net over new potential members. Yet we learned, it is in fact a process of inviting and CONNECTING with newcomers by allowing them to feel heard and cherished for their stories, and for what they might have to contribute to our parish.

The photo chosen to represent this blog post, was not one of the impressive grounds of the Schloss Furstenried near Munich, nor was it a group shot of all attendees. The picture chosen was taken in the Munich airport, as the Emmanuel attendees debriefed, and waited for our return flight to Geneva. It is a photo spontaneously taken during a moment where we were laughing so hard at stories inspired by a comment made about a pair of snakeskin sneakers which evolved (or devolved) into an exchange about our encounters with lions, tigers, and bears, forays into various jungles and deserts, and adventures in travel. This was the moment when we felt the holy spirit swirling around us, the joy and the magic of connection, and it is this kind of sacred space we hope to open up within and outside of Emmanuel.

Though we are chock-full of ideas on how to improve our invite, welcome, and connect process, we'll not list them all here. In the meanwhile, we encourage you to think about how you can open more space in your lives for connecting, and how you might do that inside our Emmanuel family.

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