From the Rector
Love Like Jesus
I am so excited about the start of our new Associate Rector, the Rev. Rebecca Tankersley! She will preach on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, and I hope you will all make a point to attend. Mother Rebecca is an extremely well-regarded teacher, preacher, and pastor, and I am thrilled that she’s joined our team. Please wear your nametag and take a moment to introduce yourself and express a warm welcome.
Do you remember what it felt like to come here for the first time? It can be extremely intimidating to enter a new church, to walk through unfamiliar doors for the first time, find a seat near people you don’t know (am I sitting in someone’s pew?!), and navigate a worship service that may be quite different than what you’ve known before. Being new can be awkward, even for clergy who are used to spending lots of time in churches. So be kind and patient with our amazing new associate rector and help her feel at home.
And not just with her, either – we must be welcoming and gracious to all who visit our church! It’s easy to come to church and immediately seek out our friends and old acquaintances in order to catch up, but we mustn’t forget to be intentional about engaging new people, too. In a church of our size, with nearly 500 people wandering the halls on a typical Sunday, it is possible to attend for weeks or even months without ever really getting to know another person. We have fantastic, friendly greeters, and a helpful ushering team, but true Christian community is about more than a polite “hello” or “how are you today.” Many years ago, I was taught that the single greatest indicator of whether someone will choose to become active in a new church is whether or not you know three people’s names. Three. That’s all. Apparently, if you know three people’s names, and they know yours, you feel like you are seen and known, and that small feeling of connection makes you significantly much more likely to stick around.
In our gospel lesson this weekend, we’ll be reminded of Jesus’ command to love one another as he loves us, which is a great big, challenging thing to try to do. It’s the Golden Rule on steroids. But as with any big, challenging goal, it helps to start small, and I think we could all start by trying to be one of those three people. We need to help new people connect with three others, to have a friendly face and a name, someone they can look to for an anchor in our big church, which just may mean they are able to hold on and stick around and find a home. Friends, before we worry about any of the radical things like loving enemies or laying down our lives for our friends, we can start loving like Jesus by simply being kind to strangers.
So, I want to challenge you this weekend, in the spirit of the start of someone new on our staff, to consider doing a few unusual things. First, consider sitting somewhere different than normal. If you always sit on the left side, try the right. If you always sit in the rear, try the front of the church. Then, look around and find the courage to introduce yourself to someone new. After worship, rather than immediately searching for people whose names you know, look for someone you don’t know and introduce yourself.
Our obedience to the command to love like Jesus is built upon such simple things as this. Being one of a newcomer’s three people. Reaching out with kindness to strangers. Putting ourselves in another person’s shoes. Getting uncomfortable for the sake of helping someone else.
See you this weekend.