Our question this week came in a little light on answers, so we could really use your help. I think we all deal with the person who calls and lets us know that they are a prospective member. What do you do to welcome people into your community and encourage them to find out about your parish?
Here's the question:
Does anyone else get asked questions by people in other cities/states/provinces/countries who are thinking about moving to your locale? This has happened to me several times now. I don't mind answering them, and I usually direct them to the area chamber of commerce and visitor's bureau (which is much more current on information than I am).
But I'm wondering if it's perhaps because these folks are, for the most part, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, and they feel that I am a "safe" contact, being the MCC pastor. Also, if they want to ask about the GLBT community, they know that I will have an idea of what's happening.
I know it happens because I've been one of these people and it has absolutely nothing to do with my own sexuality. At the same time, it's important to me that I find a welcoming church community. As Jan put it, "It's important that people find a faith community that will stretch them spiritually but not attack them/crush them."
She continues: "I actually love these queries from potential new members or simply from people trying to get the lay of the land. I've had visitors make an appointment and then virtually interview me before they come to worship the first time. The issue is almost always: 'How do you feel about gay people in your church?' I am honest about where I stand and where most people in the congregation stand. They either stay or go. And this is just fine.
"We have several mixed race couples in our congregation, and when new mixed race couples visit, I don't have to say a thing," she adds. "They see others who are comfortable/involved and they realize they could be too. Obviously if there are lots of gay couples in worship who are comfortable/involved, and that's a good thing for a visitor, there's less of a need to ask your policy.
"Know that you don't have to be the church for everybody," she concludes. "Since we are in different places in our journeys, we are always ready for every kind of congregation."
I'm still looking for additional questions for February, so please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. All queries are kept confidential.