As always, I am totally excited about Vacation Bible School starting July 8. Last year, it was a fun and exciting week where we made new friends, and for the first time in years saw our congregation pull together as a strong cohort of believers for the expressed purpose of sharing the loving message of Christ with children and adults. For me this was a turning point for our congregation, and for the first time I saw a clear path for what God was calling us to do and where God was calling us to be.
What initially drew me to the Westminster congregation was the great diversity she held. Since coming over a year and a half ago, I continue to be amazed when I stand in front of the congregation and see a community of followers that represents the grand diversity of our community. I know in talking with many in the presbytery that while we are small, we are one of the most diverse congregations in the presbytery, if not the most diverse.
We boast of having both theologically conservative and liberal members; we have straight and gay members; we have people representing almost every continent in the world; we have wealthy members, and we have members who are barely making it; we’ve got teachers and administrators; handymen and retirees; engineers, tech-workers, and businesspeople; we even have lawyers, doctors and so much more.
In many situations, this diversity could cause problems and headaches, but we seem to rise above that in some remarkable ways, modeling Christ’s compassion.
First, we are welcoming. Now, many churches boast about being welcoming, and some are, but when I watch the way we welcome and I am humbled by our genuine interest in our visitors. Instead of “sizing” people up, asking them what they do for a living, we ask questions of hospitality and welcome. You know, things like, how are you doing today, or giving them a “thank you” for joining us that day. Moreover, we do this with a real concern for those who we speak with.
Second, our “passing of the peace” time when we really make an effort to connect with each other. Every Sunday as I walk around I see many in our congregation go out of their way to make sure people are not awkwardly standing alone. As we share the peace, we also give a moment of grace and welcome.
Third, we have a time of hospitality in our coffee hour. We know that the meal was crucial for the development of the church. In the first-century church, the meal was the central aspect of the worship service. This tradition went to the Lord’s Supper and the importance of that communal time. Today we know scientifically that nothing helps us to break down barriers more then eating together. We even graciously share this meal with the occasional person who is in need.
It is a wonderful gift to have Julie and Marta for coordinating this and all the rest of the folks that help out in that time.
As you can see, there are a lot of really good things that we do, and much of it comes so naturally. As a congregation, one of our greatest gifts is that we can look past all the baggage someone might bring before us and accept them for who they are, deep down inside, being a child of God.
As we gear up for VBS in on the 8th, we will do so in the spirit and expression of our faith in Jesus Christ, providing a time for all of God's children to be welcomed into our community and shown the joys and life that come from a relationship in Jesus Christ.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen