Pastor’s Reflection

Imagine walking into a party where you recognize no one. Small groups of people are eagerly talking and laughing but no one seems to notice you. You get refreshments and eat by yourself. As you leave, the host, who doesn’t know your name, shakes your hand and says he hopes you’ll come to his next party. What are the chances that you will?
Years ago I had a similar experience when visiting a church by myself. I tried to look friendly in hopes that someone would engage me in conversation but the only one who did was the pastor who simply shook my hand. As I remember, I started out toward the fellowship hall for their social hour but ended up going home instead.
I wonder if that’s ever happened at Christ Lutheran. We don’t mean to ignore people, of course, we may just not notice the visitor sitting alone near the back. Yet a friendly smile, handshake and even a conversation may be particularly appreciated by those who are visiting. According to a recent Pew Research Center study about half of the adults in the US have looked for a new religious congregation at some point and the single most common reason is that they have moved. Another common situation that brings people to a new church is divorce.
In both cases, people are starting over again, trying build new relationships and, in the case of people new to the community, they are also dealing with the stresses of moving to a new community, into a new house and may also have children dealing with new schools. A smile and warm handshake and an invitation to conversation by someone who shares their faith may give them well-needed encouragement.
How can you know who is visiting? We may be afraid of insulting a member who comes infrequently. A solution might be to simply say, “I’m not sure if we’ve spoken before and I apologize if we have, but I’m not sure I know your name.” With words like that no harm is done if you’re greeting a longtime member or a guest.
Christian community is a gift in our transient, often unkind world. We are the body of Christ in the world. May we share that community on Sunday morning, especially with our guests.