Monday, March 13, 2006

on how not to be welcoming

*Christopher has a post up at Bending the Rule this morning which reminds me of a practice I am not particularly fond of, that of publicly introducing newcomers/visitors during announcements at worship.

His story also reminded me of a very funny attempt at hospitality to which I was subjected a number of years ago.

I had some friends who were attending an Episcopal church, a long time ago, in a diocese far away. Let's call this church St. Elsewhere.

The husband of the couple kept telling me that the members of this church were somewhat overanxious about hospitality, to the point of pursuing him across the parking lot when they didn't stay for coffee hour.

One Sunday I happened to be passing through town, and I went to St. Elsewhere for the first time with the husband. The wife, who was quite pregnant (and one might mention had long hair of a different color than mine) stayed home.

All was normal until after communion. I had come back to the pew and was sitting and praying when I heard a voice from in front of me say (sort of hissing), "YOU never come to coffee hour." I looked up and she was speaking directly to me.

I looked over at my friend for help but he was so pleased that I was getting to experience first hand what he had been complaining about for so long that he was going to be of no use whatsoever. (In fact, despite his pious posture with his face down against the pew, he was clearly smirking). Finally I muttered that I had never been to St. Elsewhere before.

"You should come to coffee hour!" she continued, rather loudly. "We have cake."

By all means, welcome Christ in the stranger's guise at the door, and at the peace, after church, and during coffee hour. But I don't recommend chasing newcomers across the parking lot, and mistaking a non-pregnant short-haired brunette for a pregnant longhaired auburn woman and accusing her during prayerful meditation of never coming to coffee hour is right out. The offer of cake is not going ot make up for it.


At 9:24 AM, Blogger Kay said...

Would it be safe to guess that you (the mistaken wife)were not "recognizable" since you had never attended coffee hour?? lol

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Annie said...

I've heard of friendly churches before ...

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Dawgdays said...

I've heard of plenty of unwelcoming churches, but few overwelcoming ones. Your experience takes the cake.

At 10:24 PM, Blogger *Christopher said...


Wow. That's amazing. Funny too how the "wife" was singled out for admonition. I would laugh but this is pushy hospitality. And I though a mic thrust in your face was bad. But, now you can eat cake...

At 10:31 PM, Blogger Questing Parson said...

A recently baptized member of my church told me of his being so uncomfortable looking for a church. He is a recovering addict. The recent search for a church was the first experience in EVER being inside a church.

He suggested that churches needed to be sensitive to the uncomfortableness of the seeking visitors. "When I came into the church," he said, "all the back pews were taken. So, by awkwardness was compounded by the fact I had to walk down the aisle to an empty pew. Why don't churches keep a pew open near the back that is for visitors. Then we could enjoy the service without being stated at."

At 10:20 AM, Blogger SingingOwl said...

Gasp! WOW!

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Lorna said...


sorry but I am :)

At 5:38 PM, Blogger LutheranChik said...

I'd have taken about three pieces of cake to go.;-)

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Songbird said...

Boy, that's amazing.

At 6:54 PM, Anonymous Another Okie said...

What kind of cake?

Chocolate cake? Where is this church?

We just have doughnuts -- but then, I'm Presbyterian.
I could convert -- well, no, actually I couldn't.

Another Okie

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Lydia said...

We have a very well meaning parishioner who greets other parishioners (especially relative new comers) with "Where were YOU last week?


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