For most Christ Church is a place of welcome. For me, at Christ Church, I imagine God’s Kingdom, envisioning a long line of people rejoicing and headed to heaven as in Flannery O’Connor’s story “Revelation.” I see a beautiful vision when I stand to lead worship and to preach. I sense the spirit of Christ.
Many share this vision, and for many a great willingness to welcome all. Still, overarching welcome remains a goal and not quite an achievement. Offering hospitality as Jesus commands us to do means welcome to any one not like us in age, gender, race, class, sexual preference, economic level or health (mental or physical). This is a challenge. While humans are wired for connection, we are also wired to make distinctions and exclude. Connection happens best when we are prepared to get to know one another. In learning more about the other, we discover common humanity, some shared interests and concerns even if we do not respond to these matters in the same way.
Turns out Sharing Christ’s Welcoming Love, which is both our mission and our motto is not as easy as it sounds or looks. It requires commitment, open minds and open hearts, and a willingness to talk about our discomfort, speaking our own truth in love. We cannot find the hospitality path until we see and speak our own concerns and hear those of others.
As with the protagonist in O’Connor’s short story, we may come to see others and ourselves in a different light when we know them as fellow followers of Christ. We then may not be quite as sure we are meant to be at the front of the heaven line. We may be grateful to God for making the line toward heaven long and inclusive. Otherwise, we may not be in line at all.
I see the best of Christ Church’s welcome now, and the best we shall become. To continue to grow spiritually and in Christ’s love shall require more conversations about what we value and love about this place and what we love about Jesus Christ for whom we are named.
During formal and informal settings, let’s listen to one another. Let’s encourage one another because a willingness to follow Jesus and His path of transforming love can be scary and threatening even as it leads to peace and deep joy. May we walk this path together.