As I have completed my final District Welcome event, I want to thank all of those who made these events possible. First, let me thank the District Superintendents and district Lay Leaders who planned and organized the events. Let me thank the local churches that hosted the events: Aiea Korean (Hawaii), Rolling Hills (West), San Diego First (South), Glendale First (North), and Riverside First (East). I need to thank the pastors and lay members of those churches who worked so hard to prepare for these welcomes. Finally, I need to thank all of you who attended these events. It means so much to me for you to take time to travel to and attend after a very busy morning for most. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
It was great to be able to greet old and meet new friends, and the format and worship experiences were simple and heartfelt. Most of all, the sense of hospitality and welcome for Jan and me were very touching.
It did make me stop and think: what if every new person who came to our church had a similar welcome. In other words, what if the hospitality and welcome put into greeting a new Bishop was the same or even more for every single visitor to our church. Think of what this would mean to the visitor. Think of what this would mean to our reputation. Think of what this would mean to our attendance.
Realistically, it is not that we can hold special events like this for every new visitor who comes to our church, but what if we put in the same type of planning, energy, and time into our welcoming system at the local church. I think if we emphasized hospitality like this, our churches will be full each and every Sunday.
It harkens back to the Benedictine tradition where everyone who visits their community must be treated as if she or he was Jesus Christ. Every person!
Let me close with Jesus’ own words:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Be the Hope,
Los Angeles Episcopal Area
United Methodist Church