Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Welcoming the Stranger

At church yesterday morning a couple introduced themselves as the parents of a priest I know. They were traveling along I-95 and planned the stop to have a place to worship on Sunday morning. I was glad to have them as guests at King of Peace.

Our yellow pages adLater, as they were leaving, they said, "Only one person spoke to us and introduced themselves. We thought you would want to know." The father went on to note that he liked our Yellow Pages ad, and we had at least lived up to not yelling at them. And yet the couple was clearly wrankled by our not being adequately welcoming.

As we spoke, I looked up and the entry hall was still very full with perhaps as many as half of the 131 people who came to worship with us. There were lots of groups of people talking energetically and I could see how it would be hard to attach and easy to slide on out as this couple was doing. It would be easy to see us as a friendly church, but a church that is friendly with one another rather than strangers. Though I did know new faces who I could see speaking with folks who had been at King of Peace longer. A stranger couldn't see that. They could only see the welcome they had recieved.

I told them that what we teach specifically is a 5-minute Rule. In the first five minutes after worship those who consider King of Peace their church home should look for people they do not know and go up and say, "Hi I'm _____. I don't believe we have met." Then talk, get the person connected to others with similar interests, ages of children, whatever. And if you see someone new already has someone speaking with them, let it go until next time as we also don't want to mob newcomers.

This is central for us as hospitality is one of our values of King of Peace. Frankly, I was pleased that someone noticed the couple and spoke to introduce themselves. That is heartening. Yet two visitors left feeling they had not been welcomed. No matter what I think of how we did, our response fell short of their expectation of what a welcoming Episcopal Church is like.

In our hallway after church on a less busy SundaySo while I'm Monday morning quarterbacking the situation, I thought I would ruminate along with y'all. What should we do? How can we learn, as a group, to better welcome strangers in our midst? How can we be welcoming to newcomers rather than just friendly with one another? And I want to challenge some of the 200+ daily lurkers to chime in and help me sort through the challenge of the ministry of hospitality.

In the archives is the sermon The Value of Hospitality.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church


  • At 11/20/2006 7:48 AM, Blogger Celeste said…

    Is this growing pains? There are so many new faces that I see every week at KOP. I can think of about 6 people that I saw for the first time just yesterday. Then there were some who haven't been to KOP in a while. We definitely have some room for improvement, but how do we get to all of them?
    I remember the couple, I only acknowledged them when they got there and then left them alone. Looking back, I see they were wanting more.

  • At 11/20/2006 9:26 AM, Blogger Victoria said…

    This is a difficult one for me. As a "1" on the introvert/extrovert scale (1 being an extreme introvert)and being shy to boot, just walking up to someone I do not know is excruciatingly hard for me to do. Conversely, if I am new to or just visiting a church, I prefer to just attend worship and slip out. So, how do you know which people want approaching and which do not? From my point of view, if I am looking to attach, I would be more likely to hover and hope that I am approached. I imagine if this couple had "hovered" a while longer, there would have been a number of people who would have noticed and said something to them. As Celeste noted, with so many new faces, it takes a while to figure out who needs welcoming. And, as we are all different, how we wish to be welcomed will vary. There is a fine line between being welcoming and running someone off because you were too welcoming.

  • At 11/20/2006 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As a new member of King of Peace, I must say that I have seen and experienced more hospitality at King of Peace than in any church I have ever attended. From the moment my family and I walked in, we had friendly faces all around greeting us, talking to us and welcoming us. I think that you may need to be a little more forgiving towards your congregation yesterday for a few reasons. These are not to be taken as excuses, but maybe you can see why things happened the way they did.

    First of all, it is Thanksgiving week, and your congregation has taken on a tremendous responsibility trying to make sure that all who need to be fed will be on Thursday. People were trying to tie up loose ends and manage the details with those that they might not see again until Thanksgiving Day.

    Secondly, because of the holiday, there were a few out of town relatives visiting our church with their families. Could these people have been unfortunately mistaken for somebody’s mom and dad within the church? Maybe we saw this couple speaking with you and assumed that hospitality was being extended. Like you said, you don’t want to mob people.

    Also, with your congregation growing the way it is, it is very difficult to get to ALL of the new faces. Sometimes, you can think you have sought out all of the new faces, but accidentally miss some hiding in the crowds.

    I sincerely apologize for not recognizing this couple as visitors or new faces within King of Peace. But, there were several members of your congregation still recognizing me as a new face. That’s a good thing! Sometimes it takes awhile. Maybe it’s like commercials. Did you know the average commercial is seen seven times by somebody before they ever really see it?

    I think that since the congregation at King of Peace is growing so rapidly, there may be a few things we can do to help ourselves in the hospitality department. Maybe acknowledging new comers and visitors before the service begins, or during the announcement may help. Simply state,“ We would like to welcome all visitors and new members to our church.” Have them raise their hands so everybody can see them. Also, have a guest book open near the membership sign up sheets. Invite the visitors to sign the book so we can keep them in our prayers. Also, mention where the new member sign up sheets are located. This way, after the service these new faces will be in a certain area and they can be easily recognized and approached and invited to stay for a few minutes of fellowship. Sending friendly thank you notes to visitors would be nice too. I would be more than happy to do this!

  • At 11/20/2006 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not to rain on anyone's parade but many visitors do not want to be pointed out or singled out. Some just want to obseve unnoticed.

    I have visisted King of Peace and frankly the people did seem reserved and socialized almost exclusively with the people they knew.

    This is not meant as a criticism because lord knows I can be unsociable.

  • At 11/20/2006 4:44 PM, Blogger November In My Soul said…

    Lurker? Wow, never been called that before.

  • At 11/20/2006 6:04 PM, Blogger Robin D. said…

    Well, as a "PK" I have been to more churches and different congregations than most.

    I don't think I've heard of anyone dropping in on their daddy's friend's church and giving them a report card on hospitality.

    That's just strange. It reminds me of the "Connoisseur of Fine Churches" described by Screwtape.

  • At 11/20/2006 7:56 PM, Blogger Mike Gross said…

    I really think the door swings both ways. People who want to be recognized, should be introducing themselves and letting us know they are from out of town. Many of us have "chores" to do right after church. Setting up for Kids in the Kingdom, meeting for Thanksgiving day preps, paying the babysitters, counting the tithes, putting away the alter linens, setting up the desserts. I could go on, and on, and on. So many things get done and folks just think it is "automatic". I would encourage everyone who does not have a "chore" to get out and "meet and greet". By the same token, it takes two people to perform a handshake. Whoever extends the hand first is not the issue here.

  • At 11/20/2006 8:53 PM, Blogger Laura said…

    We are so fortunate here at "my" church, because we have a member who takes it on herself to greet all newcomers and make sure they meet others of us! We also have organized a rotation of "greeters" whose job it is to come early, stand by the door and give each one who enters a cordial "Hello."
    But I agree that it's hard to find the line between welcoming and scaring off!
    And I agree that, as an introvert, (it must be genetic) it's hard for me, personally, to approach strangers. But I'm getting better at it. We actually divided up in pairs and practiced greeting at a meeting organized by our Church Growth committee. That helped. And we have nametags, if we could only get our members to actually wear them!

  • At 11/20/2006 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Rita and I concur that our personal experience has been excellent from the standpoint of KofP members welcoming us and making us feel a part of the Church community. Before transferring our membership to KofP, we visited a couple of times at St. Peter's in Fernandina Beach. I was extremely impressed with their greeting and their post-Church follow up. Perhaps we could use designated greeters at each service, and then have a committee (or the Mission Council) to call or write the newcomers to extend our hospitality to them. We don't want to become like a fraternity "rush," but my personal thought is, when in doubt, take the initiative to offer hospitality and welcome.


  • At 11/20/2006 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So sorry to hear that we are not up to par. As a rapidly growing church, it is a bit difficult to figure out who our visitors are. Being baptist for so long I am used to the visitors being pointed out. Maybe we should try that but only have a few church members go to them and say hello so that they don't feel bombarded.

    God Bless,

  • At 11/20/2006 9:09 PM, Anonymous Maris Cato said…

    At one church I attended, we had bleached sand dollars with a card of welcome attached that we handed out to visitors (at least to the ones who acknowledged they were new to us.) It showed newer people that we were trying anyway. The attached card had the minister's name and numbers. Just an idea.

  • At 11/20/2006 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow. That comment that couple made, kind of hurt my feelings. I made it a point to smile at them and say hello, (not trying to judge them or make excuses) but they did not really make themselves approachable. And if I remember right, they were one of the first people to want to get out the door-- did they try hang around and talk to people? I cannot remember if they did or not. I just remember them talking to Frank very shortly after the service. I know at other churches, they make visitors raise their hands and fill out cards to put in the offering plate. How embarassing is that? I've also been a newcomer at another church and felt smothered. Where do you draw the line? I think that King of Peace DOES have clicks. I've seen them, and I know a lot of others have too. But that is going to happen anywhere, and you can't really get away from that. You can't please everyone, and we can't change the past. We CAN focus our efforts a little bit more on the newcomers, try to break up the clicks and maybe everyone should make a personal goal to try to meet someone new every service (even if they've been here once or twice but you haven't met them yet).

  • At 11/20/2006 10:22 PM, Anonymous Debbie said…

    I think one's view might depend on what you need from church that day. Some days I come and I want to be surrounded by company and friends, and on those days I talk to lots of people. Other days, I've just wanted to be among people yet still be alone, and that's OK, too. Whether I get companionship or solitude is up to me. As long as I understand that what I am there to do it to worship and take care of spiritual matters, pursuing the social aspect is a perk. I've never felt that our church is a social club but a spiritual community of friends and family - spiritual brothers and sisters.

  • At 11/21/2006 7:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It has felt overwhelming lately trying to meet all the newcomers and keep the newer members feel connected. When people sign our guest book, we do follow up, but very few newcomers sign it. We do need to encourage them to do so. I try to welcome people during the peace who are sitting near me, but maybe they don't see that as a sign of welcome.

  • At 11/21/2006 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Being fairly new to the church myself, I am still meeting some of the current members. One cannot expect everyone in the church to run up and welcome them. Yes, we need to be open to those that are new and give a friendly hello, but the newcomer should also do the same.

    Our old church that we went to would ask if there were any visitors and if they chose to raise their hand they could. He would ask where they were visiting from and if they were a guest of someone in the church. He would welcome them and so would the congregation. We also once a month called those forward who's birthday it was that month and a birthday prayer would be said for them. Small thing we did to make the congregation more involved.

    Overall, King of Peace is an amazing church and I am lucky to have found such a wonderful place to worship.

  • At 11/21/2006 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love Maris's idea of the sanddollar. That is short and sweet. When it is handed to them, it might prompt more conversation. On the other hand, if they are the type who don't want the attention they can say thanks and move on. There would have to be a plan for getting these to the visitors. What if you and the greeter stood at the door as the people exited the sanctuary and shook hands with everyone and had a basket of sanddollars next to you to hand out to the visitors? Then, when they are hanging around, others will see the sanddollars in their hand and know they are visitors. If they are the type to not socialize, then they will probably head out the door. If they hang around, they are probably looking for conversation.

    I am always afraid of welcoming someone as a visitor, only to find out they have been members for a long time!! How embarrassing. That is what holds me back because, quite frankly, I don't know who all the members are. I wouldn't recognize some of them on the street.

    The bottom line is, we want our members and regular attenders to be "real".

    So, if we're asked to be "fake" in order to attract the visitors, then the visitors are not seeing the "real" thing. Not sure if that makes sense.


  • At 11/21/2006 9:46 AM, Blogger Celeste said…

    It seems the consensus is that KOP has good intentions for welcoming new folks. What doesn't fit well for me is to have all newcomers stand at the peace or single them out for introductions. I also can't see name tags for the members. We do have a guest sheet and cards available. We are currently working on getting the cards more accessible to the guests. What this has stirred in all of us is to be more mindful of who is around us and attempt to greet them. For me it would probably help if I actually sat in a different area. We all tend to sit in the same place and that puts us around the same people.

  • At 11/21/2006 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Obviously, our visitors on Sunday wanted to be singled out, acknowledged as visitors and receive special attention. Maybe we should welcome visitors during the announcements and point out that there is a guest sheet to sign in the entrance way. I know when I walk out after the service, there are so many people at the tables signing everything that it is overwhelming. Is the guest sheet in a place by itself? Also, raising hands during the announcements to acknowledge visitors is fine. If there are some that don't want to be noticed, they don't have to participate.

  • At 11/21/2006 11:02 AM, Anonymous Maris said…

    When I started coming to church in May, Janice Morris began an email conversation with me. It took weeks for us to find each other, except in cyberspace, but I knew someone special was looking for me and I was looking for her. It made all the difference! Thank you, Janice!!!

  • At 11/21/2006 12:12 PM, Anonymous Steve+ said…

    I notice the hospitality of other churches when I worship on vacation, etc. I notice when I'm not spoken to. That may be for a variety of reasons. For instance, and I haven't read all the responses so I don't know if this was covered, but what would be more scandalous in a larger church; going up to someone and welcoming them only to find out they've been members for 30 years or not to speak to them at all in fear of embarrassing yourself for not knowing them? But I think at the end of the day, coming to worship is about worshipping God, regardless of who talks to you or who does not. Certainly we want all of our churches to reflect the joy and love and hospitality that naturally springs from our faith (or we hope springs from our faith) but I tend to cringe somewhat at an ego-centric approach to worship. "I" didn't get anything out of it. No one spoke to "me." I heard an Orthodox priest say yesterday that we come to church to work. If liturgy really is the "work of the people," he's right. It's not about us. But we do want the Body of Christ to know each other.
    At St Michael's, we have refreshments in the yard immediately after worship. Most stay and chat and we look for new folks who are just standing around. But some folks don't want to chat, they want to go. I think we have to respect that. Just like if someone puts down their phone number of a visitors card, I think they want to be called. If they don't put it down, they don't want to be called. For me, people are people. What is hospitality to one is not to another. We do the best we can being as authentic as we can. The fact that this post is being discussed seems to suggest that KOP takes community and hospitality seriously.

  • At 11/21/2006 12:45 PM, Blogger Celeste said…

    Ditto and Amen to that Steve. Well said.

  • At 11/21/2006 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I tend to agree with the posts of not knowing everyone and welcoming someone who is not new as an embarassment. Even after attending KOP for almost 2yrs.I still do not know all names and maybe even some faces can be unfamiliar. I myself when attended a new church I did not want to be singled out. I think if people would like to be known as visitors then they would tend to stay around for a while after the service. I am disturbed by the fact that we go to church to worship and praise and the last thing I want is to be judged by how many people I talked to.

  • At 11/21/2006 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You can always greet somebody you don't know without making it seem like you're welcoming them for the very first time. "Hi,I am _____. I don't believe we've met,"is a great lead in to meeting somebody. This is a good opportunity to find out their story. I do agree, however, that we were judged a little harshly on Sunday.Even if we try our best, we will never be perfect. These visitors had not walked in our shoes these last couple of weeks.

  • At 11/28/2006 11:53 PM, Blogger Melodie said…

    I enjoyed reading all of the comments and I learned a lot about some of the members through reading them. I have been attending KOP for almost a year and have yet to meet everyone. Most people have been very welcoming to me and each week I feel more like family. I think the comments about clicks, sitting in the same area, being busy with church business and the fact that the church is growing rapidly with new faces all the time makes it difficult for the newer people to recognize even newer people at times. I think a nice idea would be just before “The Peace” to ask if visitors are present and to stand and be noticed, but not have to introduce themselves and then proceed with The Peace in welcoming them and one another. I also feel The Peace could last 2 extra minutes to enable us to go a little farther in the crowd. Then, afterwards some would have the opportunity to welcome the newcomers. I attended Baptist churches all of my life and I was embarrassed by being singled out too, but something has to be said about being aggressive at some point. I enjoy my worship and fellowship time at KOP and it has been my experience that there are many wonderful and sweet people there who have blessed my life in making me feel so welcomed and loved. I remember meeting a new couple beside me and introducing myself to them, but for all I know they could have been someone who sits on the other side and changed seats for the day. I also think that people who are not shy could possibly spend more time speaking to people they haven’t met before during the few minutes after church for coffee break or at dinners we have. Another thought would be to encourage more to attend Wednesday nights since it is so personal and growing, as well and would help us all to become acquainted more. Thank you Fr. Frank for sharing this message and just know that you are Awesome and we love you. ~Melodie


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