A people who welcome.
accepts me,’ he said. ‘And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.’” (Luke 9:47-48 The Message)
“Accepting.” I have heard this one word used more often than any other to describe First Church. (It’s also a natural for Bethany Church… perhaps that shared welcoming spirit helps explain such a long and fruitful partnership.)
New members and visitors use this word, saying they are drawn to our open friendliness and lack of judgment. Our consultant, Kris Peterson, heard it loud and clear from our ruling elders, when she asked what they love about their church. Our Confirmation class wrote it in their joint faith statement: “Church is a safe, welcoming place, like a good family, that shows God’s love by example.” Your ministry information form, which was the first thing I learned about you, said these churches are “welcoming congregations that worship with all who walk through the doors.” One of your references said our churches are “just kind of plain and open and friendly, with a sense of freedom of thought.”
Graceful acceptance. This is clearly at the core of who we are, or at least how we see ourselves. While we have disappointed people on this point—and we can always do better—for the most part, being a place of welcome is part of our mission in this community.
Accepting others, as they are, is a natural response to feeling accepted by God as who we are. “Accepting” is a very good place for the people of God to start. And it raises some questions as we go deeper in our faith together. Can we accept each other when we are feeling lost, ashamed or bossy? Can we accept each other when we disagree? Or does acceptance require keeping contrary views and difficult personal truths hidden? Is accepting more than just being nice? Can we be accepting and challenge each other to a higher level of discipleship? What would it look like to move from accepting to loving?
I look forward to the next steps in the visioning and revitalization process, as we consider how we will continue to grow together in faith and passion.
Welcoming with you,