Invite, Welcome, Connect was the theme of a Convocation sponsored conference by the Academy of Parish Leadership for lay volunteers and clergy a few years ago. Just those three words convey so much responsibility in Christian life.
The Welcome Team at Emmanuel re-formed approximately 3 years ago, with the goal of developing a process for accompanying newcomers through our doors on their journey to a sense of connection with their new church. The vision of the Team was to form a rotation of Welcomers who make an announcement each Sunday, and offer to collect information from, and be of service to newcomers, introducing them to Parish life, ways to get involved, and also the basics such as how to simply receive our newsletter, find their way to the Parish Halls, and join us for coffee hour and other festivities.
The Team formed officially through approval from the Vestry, and set about the task of requesting a budget, developing a welcome gift, welcome cards, and tracking newcomer information in order so that the Church can stay in better contact with our newer members and conduct follow-up, as well as invite newcomers to special events held just for them.
The vision of the Team came closer to realisation when the group was able to host their first official Welcome Dinner this past weekend. Newcomer events will be ongoing, meant to introduce parish life, and foster bonds between Newcomers, Clergy, and the Welcome Team. But most of all, the Team seeks to connect, and make sure that everyone who passes through our doors, feels a genuine sense of welcome and belonging, where people feel cherished for their gifts, and are encouraged to use them in community.
The most poignant moments of this dinner were about story telling. It is through the telling of our stories that we foster genuine connection and a chance to be understood. Our family is richer for having had the pleasure to hear from our newcomers, and it brings to mind the last few lines of the St. Francis prayer, "O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive..."
If you would like a welcome, just raise your hand during the 10:30 Sunday Service and make yourself known to the Welcomer who would be pleased to show you around. If you are feeling called to make others feel welcomed at Emmanuel Church, please consider marking your willingness on your pledge form this stewardship season. We'd love to have you join the Team!