Have you noticed the way your senses seem to perk up when you are entering someplace new? You walk into a new restaurant, and immediately begin discerning if a hostess will greet and seat you, or if you are left to fend for yourself. Or walking into a new store, you find yourself looking for a sense of direction – trying to spot the departments you enjoy, the restrooms, the cashier. Sometimes, these new experiences can cause anxiety or stress.
And often, such first impressions determine if you will return to this place again! There are studies on how quickly people determine if a place is welcoming, appealing or safe – but I think we all know how quickly we try to find ourselves in a place that is comfortable, in a place where we are known.
Finding myself in new situations has been something I have experienced many times this year. Since getting married in May, I have found myself trying to figure out not only how to build a home & be married – but also how to navigate the new world I live in: owning a dog, learning my way around my new town of Kimball, how to properly hang a suit, and interpreting the winks and stereotypical jokes other wives give about being married. But now, I am also entering into another new place: being the pastor of Bethel. Here, I have another building to learn, another town to navigate, and many, many faces & names to remember! And how happy I am to be a part of all of this!
The point of sharing with you all the newness in my life, is to make a point that I know how hard it can be to be someplace new. And how important it is to be welcomed.
Our website and the sign outside of church both name Bethel as “The Welcome Place”. If I have learned anything in the last couple of months (and trust me, I have learned SO much!) it is that Bethel Lutheran Church IS a welcoming place. These are not simply words on a sign. But it is an attitude that is expressed in the smiles, hugs and handshakes extended whenever I enter church. I see it in the crayon drawings colored for me during worship (by the children – though I’d be likely to hang any drawing inspired by worship). And I hear it from others – friends, family & visitors of the congregation: “Everyone is so welcoming. So nice and warm.”
This is a gift of the Spirit and is an act of discipleship. Making folks feel welcome here, in the “house of God’ (did you know that is what Bethel means?!) is one way we live out our call and give others a glimpse into God’s love.
So keep it up! Or in the words of Philippians 4:9: Keep putting into practice all you have learned and received from me and God’s peace be with you. And thank you all for making me, and every person who steps into our church, feel so at home and welcome in this place.