The Same Old Thing

Our church wants to be able to say “we are welcoming and affirming,” and mean it. On the whole, this feels like a good thing to me, especially since it is often true. I’ve begun to learn that I have enough reservations about the project and the way we’re going about it to fill a matched set of luggage, though. There’s some irony in that, since I think I personally qualify as one of the objects of the radical inclusiveness initiative.

So what “inclusiveness” or “welcome” or “hospitality” really means has been on my mind. And while I do not have a definitive answer, it occurs to me that there are a few things that really get in the way of “being welcoming,” and of “feeling welcomed.”

Disapproval. Disgust. Contempt. Rejection.

Saying things that clearly communicate the assumption that any half-way decent person would not have your [wrong, obviously] ideas, commitments, values, or practices.

“Dealing with” the problem you just caused, or are, and explaining to you how you can avoid making us have to do that next time.

You don’t need to be LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ to experience these things from other people at church. You just need to be one of the kind of people that everyone else has a hard time being delighted to have around.

As one of our honest members said after we’d pre-viewed the video on inclusiveness training yesterday, and were discussing whether it would really be appropriate or helpful for the congregation, “I think I’d have an easier time welcoming a trans person than a Republican these days.” Our membership and attendance rolls over the past couple of years suggest he’s not the only one.

Then, there are the people who bring toddlers to church. Or admit to not reading books. Or like praise music. Or panhandle. Or bring the wrong food to pitch-ins, back in the days when we HAD pitch-ins. There aren’t too many training videos for radically including those folks. But the challenge may be even more real.

My guess is that preparing to say “we’re welcoming and affirming” and mean it requires us to confront and deal with our actual disapproval, disgust, contempt, and rejection, of whoever actually provokes that, whatever its roots. And with our inability to take delight in the various people who are not doing anything more wrong than messing up the comfortable way we like things to be.

Which brings us back to confronting and dealing with what keeps us from being able to love people, the way Jesus did.

That old thing.
red line embellished

Image: “Irises in the Botanical Garden,” Kor!An (Андрей Корзун), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

9 responses to “The Same Old Thing”

  1. Thank you for drilling down to the basics. As a famous person once said, “Judge not…” Thx, L

    Sent from the all new AOL app for Android

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Larry! All that said, I do understand and support the desire to let people know that the congregation is a “safe space” for folks who might not find it elsewhere in our area. Since that’s how all this got started, I think. And the desire to be telling the truth about that, at least mostly. 🙂


    • I know! I guess if it were easy, we’d all already be better at it. Thank God for grace, I guess. And hopefully people actually do find some of that at church! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • idk Tim, I’m pretty sure we Reformed could give you all a run for your money in the grace denial department … not that it’s a competition or anything. [There’s a trophy case we wouldn’t want to see, eh?]

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post today is such a good reminder for those of us who have been members of the same church for many years. We tend to forget how it is to be the first-time or even tenth-time visitor. I’m just now going back to in-person worship, and I’m finding that there are a lot of “new” people at church who started coming during the pandemic. With our masks off now, it’s time for us to cheerfully greet and introduce ourselves to those we don’t know and make sure they feel welcome and accepted. I think every church thinks it’s a welcoming church, but it’s been my experience that some aren’t friendly at all. It’s up to me to do my part to make sure everyone feels welcome at the church I attend. I can’t assume that others will engage with visitors — so I don’t need to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true! Thanks, Janet, for pointing this out. It reminds me of something someone said about our church once, years ago – that when family members came, who seldom appeared in church, they were especially likely to be ignored – because everyone kind of acted like “well, their family’s taking care of them.” It’s like we have our lanes, and we swim in them. Best wishes on the cheerful greetings!!

      Liked by 1 person

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