[St Oswald's Parish Magazine] The Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway recently held a full day workshop on welcoming people as part of its Diocesan Education Action Programme. Particular attention was given to welcoming people who might not be familiar with attending church, or are not typical of the average congregation.
The Revd Clive Wylie, who is also a facilitator for the Scottish Episcopal Church's Mission 21 programme, gave the keynote address. Clive reminded the 25 people attending the workshop that to many outsiders, especially the young, the church might seem boring, irrelevant and out of date.
"Many factors influence visitors in considering whether to come back or not," said Clive Wylie, "but generally newcomers look initially for a warm welcome, relevant sermons, and that their children are made to feel at home."
Following the opening address, several informal workshops helped participants to look at issues such as who is made to feel welcome at church, what access there is for people with disabilities, how to meet and greet effectively, making the liturgy and layout of the church welcoming, and dealing with occasional visitors.
In the afternoon, role-play was used to help the participants appreciate the range of skills and approaches needed as an effective welcomer. The scenarios included welcoming a person in a wheelchair who was deaf, a drunk man who was smoking in church, two gay women who flaunted their affections for each other, a young man with a baby who wouldn't stop crying, and a former member who talked to everyone about the 'old days'.
The Revd Clive Wylie had reminded the participants that welcoming was the responsibility of the whole congregation. "If it is not seen as such," he said, "then Christians must ask themselves if they are serious about their commission from Jesus."
Surely the words of Jesus say it all: "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." (Luke 9:48, NIV)