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Hallo again to all.

It is summer in our part of the world. We have experienced the heat wave that has crossed much of the Anglican world (and are grateful that our area should have a bit of a respite this week). We, like many others, took some time this summer for a short holiday; in our case, to somewhere typically a bit cooler than our current town. We lodged at a three-hundred-year-old house turned bed and breakfast in the mountains a few hours drive from home. Much of our time was spent reading, staring out the window to see the adjacent river, and exploring the picturesque towns nearby.

Sunday morning took us, unsurprisingly, to a local parish church. Three congregations were roughly equidistant, and this parish had a welcoming website, with clearly marked summer service times that coordinated well with our schedule for the day. We sat in the last row because of our last-minute arrival and so that we could make an escape if necessary. The service was remarkably as expected, with a few minor local idiosyncrasies, as is the case for most congregations, with all elements of the service noted in print.*

We hear much about making congregations welcoming. Sometimes that means making clear that different races, genders, sexual identities and orientations, and classes are all invited to be part of the congregation. Other times it simply means ensuring that newcomers feel valued and have a place within the congregation.†

At this point it is relevant to mention that the 'we' in this particular case, refers to two members of our editorial staff, both of whom are in our mid-thirties.  This was not the demographic of those in the congregation.

The priest walked over to us immediately following the dismissal with a look similar to that which we imagine on sharks circling prey. She had big, hungry eyes. Our heart rate quickened. As she approached, we immediately offered that we were 'just visiting'. Which was followed by a question of 'Do you live in this area?' We countered 'we live about three hours drive away and are on holiday.' Her face fell noticeably. We thanked her and fled, feeling rather terrible for letting her down.

Welcoming newcomers and visitors is a delicate art, especially in a tradition known for attracting more bookish, private people than many others. We must balance friendliness and an acknowledgment of newcomers against overzealousness and scaring them away with feelings that they are being used or made to feel vulnerable. Ignoring visitors is, of course, no better, so a happy medium must be found.

The summer holiday is an awkward time for all—with many stalwart members away and first-time visitors. We do not envy the priest who greeted us last week, but do suggest that whether by a designated lay welcomer, cleric, or generally friendly congregant, newcomers and visitors are greeted. They should be made to feel welcome as friends in Christ, and not food.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

All of us at Anglicans Online

12 August 2018

*We would have preferred the passing of the peace be a bit more abbreviated — nearly ninety people feeling a need to greet everyone else in the building felt a bit prolonged, though we too, for better or for worse, were welcomed by everyone.

†We once visited a potential congregation where the priest tried to introduce newcomers and visitors during announcements. We ducked under the pew to be avoided. We did not return to that congregation. Don’t do that.

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