Congregational Corner: You are invited!
By Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.‘14)
Invitations. They fill our mailbox every year, inviting us to weddings and birthday parties, baby showers and retirement celebrations, housewarmings and game nights. Electronic invitations can be sent for free, you can have a mail house do the addressing for you, or make a night of it with a friend as you hand address and lick each envelope. We think nothing of sending invitations when it is time to party – so why do we second guess ourselves when it is time to worship?
There is a billboard in Eastern NC which has peaked my interest for several years now. The congregation renting that space has called out to the masses and invited everyone to join them, “Where you belong before you believe.” I imagine a congregation of individuals of all ages, in out types of outfits, and talking about all kinds of things. I imagine laughter and excitement as strangers become friends, and as friends walk together discerning their faith. This invitation might be a blanket invite, but it is one that grabs attention and makes this pastor very curious.
This past weekend, a group of teenagers knocked on my door. The teens seemed genuinely excited about their church as they handed over a postcard and invited us – NOT to come to church – but to come get a bookbag filled with supplies for the year. They see a need in our community and they want to address it – on a Saturday morning when people of all faith traditions can join together as one community, celebrating another new beginning. Even with no children in need of a book bag of supplies, we were interested in and excited for their ministry.
Sitting at table along a sidewalk in downtown Raleigh, my husband stopped mid-sentence and called out to someone behind me, “Hey! Would you like to have a seat?” I was both shocked and confused (and the introvert in me was a little annoyed) when an older gentleman limped over and sat down with us. Over the next hour, we enjoyed conversation about family, faith, sports, and movies as the sun beat down on us and the server kept our water glasses filled. As we parted ways, we shook hands and wished each other well, likely to never cross paths again but changed forever because of our time together.
Each of these instances have occurred in the last few weeks and had me thinking about how I invite others to the Table this coming year.
When we worship, we may not have balloons and an overflowing gift table when you arrive but we are having a party! We are singing, some are dancing, we are smiling, we are hugging, we are celebrating – even in our grief, solitude, and fear. We are a community of God’s children and we want to welcome YOU! We want to welcome you to worship, to Bible study, to Sunday school, to youth group, to fellowship, and just to BE.
We at least say that we want to invite you. The thought is there! Why don’t we actually do it, though?
We put blurbs in our church newsletters and might even post on Facebook. We encourage others to pass along an invitation while we wait to hear the results. We pray they won’t answer the phone when we call so that we can just leave a quick voicemail and move on.
For most churches, these weeks kick off a new Christian Education year. I challenge you to move beyond the bulletin invitation, only seen by those already in attendance and actually reading what we have edited all week. Call those who are missing. Tell your neighbors about what excites you at your church. Bring a friend to youth group. Invite the young adult down the pew to join you. Look one another in the eye and share an invitation to join together in this crazy journey of life and faith!