‘Welcome’ has been an important theme for us recently. It has been a delight to welcome quite a number of new faces on a Sunday morning: it is good to welcome you amongst us. We’ve also welcomed several new families to Messy Church in the last few months: welcome to you too. Christmas has been a particular time when we have so many opportunities to demonstrate the importance of welcoming others. Some of these are regular highlights such as the lunch after the Friday Shoppers’ Service and our Sunday Christmas lunch – and it was great to see new faces at both.
We’ve also tried new things. Re-telling the Christmas story always offers opportunities for us to share Good News, and I will remember the Christingle Service we held for the pupils from Breakspeare School as a great highlight of my Ministry here: you know how much passion I have for the needs of pupils at Special Schools.
Sometimes we ourselves need to be welcomed. Thank you to those who have welcomed me as I’ve visited you. Thank you too to the management and customers at the three pubs who welcomed our Churches Together carol singers. They were impressed, first, that we represented all of the churches in the village, and second, that we weren’t collecting or asking for anything, we were simply offering our Christmas joy. (As our lectionary readings journey through Matthew this year we will want to reflect on that Gospel’s closing emphasis on taking out the Good News.)
We’ve also been doing quite a lot of work at the church. It is all very well saying we ‘offer a warm welcome to our services’ but when the heating was becoming so unreliable, we couldn’t be sure to offer that: I’m delighted we’ve got that fixed. The refurbishment of the small hall has also made this a much more welcoming space. During 2017, we hope to enhance our welcome further with improved access for the disabled and a new wayside pulpit.
As committed members of Churches Together, it has been a privilege to welcome new clergy to most of our churches. We were well represented at the welcome service for James Webster at St Paul’s in December. We look forward to seeing that Churches Together flourish afresh as a welcoming, worshipping community through our joint services in January and through our joint Lent groups.
We are also delighted to welcome Rev David Chapman, our new District Chair, as our preacher in January.
‘Welcome’ is an expression of our love for each other, and we can be sure that ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13:35)
God bless you all as we journey together through the joys and challenges of 2017.