The guest book at my church – and indeed, at many churches around the country – asks for three pieces of information: Name, Address, Home Church.
This guest book assumes those signing it have a home church. But what happens when more and more people in our society are not church members, people who would have nothing to write in the "Home Church" column? Are we ready to welcome them into our midst?
I'm not sure.
If we assume that visitors have a home church, we assume that they already know how to "do" church … that is, we assume that they already know some of the basics – the Lord's Prayer, the creeds, manner of receiving communion, how to share the peace, when to stand up or sit down.
But what if someone walks in our doors not knowing much – or anything – about our faith and tradition? Are we prepared to show them our faith, our tradition, our God? How do we as communities of faith share that faith with newcomers to it? How do we open up our traditions to those who have never experienced them?
For better or worse this is not a problem most of our churches have to face, however, as those visitors who do walk through our doors usually have some church background, and likely have something to write in the "home church" column in our guest books.
Still, I wonder … what would the guest book look like in a church postured to welcome those completely new to the experience of church? Name, Address, and … what?
3 thoughts on “Name, Address, Home Church”
After reading this post again I remembered that, over a year ago, I wrote a post wondering about how the church could serve both “insiders” and “newcomers” – The Church’s Permanent Collection?
If we were all to be totally honest when we write, it could be Name, Address, and What are you seeking?
I thought that the home church designation was so that one church didn’t seek to raid members from other churches? I got this idea a long time ago when I visited my cousin’s church, 20 miles away, on the other side of the city where I grew up. I signed the guest book. I apparently didn’t put my home church down. I got a call from the pastor, who asked a few questions, etc. and then somehow figured out that I had a church. My cousin said that he made a point of visiting every visitor who didn’t have a home church.
I took a class from a pastor once from which I remember one specific thing: when a person who hasn’t been attending church starts attending or a regular attender stops attending, then usually there is something important going on in his/her life, ie a potential opportunity for ministry. My current pastor says that the same thing applies to those who stop giving to the church.
So maybe the questions should be, Name, Address, and why the heck did you decide to show up today?
I agree with PS. Name, Address and what brought you here this morning. Although the “what brought you here this morning” needs to be followed by “you know, it’s perfectly alright that you will not tell us why you are here this morning right away. In fact, you may never tell us. But all of us have been in that ultimate place of fear, sadness, frustration, depression, anticipation, expectation, longing, seeking. To tell you the truth, we won’t necessarily tell you the real reason that we come to this place week after week either. Although that reason dwells deep within. But we do come to be together in this place. And we ask you to come and be with us – in bible exploration and prayer – that leads to worship and ministry of service alongside others. Because being is what the church is all about. We have figured out over time that in the end it’s not really about going to church. Its about our being the church with you. Will you join us for our bible exploration and prayer on Wednesday evening this week?”
A few weeks later…we remain vulnerable, offering our whole selves to this newcomer…and in the process of being for the other discover our reason for being church all over again.
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