Note: This final entry in our core value series of posts was authored by the chair of our search committee, Johanna Pearce
In recent months, as our congregation worked through the process of becoming ready for a new pastor, we sought to identify our core values. As we talked, the word welcoming echoed through discussions. Everyone seemed to believe Grace welcomes those who join us for worship, fellowship, VBS, chicken noodle supper, mission, outreach, and more. Folks said one of the things they liked best when they first came to Grace was just how nice, kind, and welcoming we are. Our kindness makes an impression. There was consensus that being welcoming is vital to who we want to be and believe we are.
I think Grace embraces the concept of welcome because we know what Jesus calls us to BE and DO. Consider that Romans 15:7 (NIV) calls Christians to “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” In Sunday School and at VBS, the youngest among us become familiar with Luke 10:27 when they learn, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” And, there is more. Hebrews 13:1 says, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.”
So, being welcoming is more than paying lip service to the act of welcoming. There has to be meaning behind the actions. We have to sincerely and genuinely be willing to accept one another, just as Christ accepted us. How cool is that? How cool and wonderful is it that Jesus accepts us – just as we are? No matter what? No matter what!
As Grace enters a new season and we continue to work together with our members and friends to discern the plans God has for us, I pray we will BE welcoming and DO things that demonstrate the same kind of welcoming acceptance that Christ has for each one of us. It won’t always be easy and we might stumble along the way. However, we have an action plan that comes from the most reliable source! That plan is to ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF, and KEEP ON LOVING. That’s the kind of welcome that has meaning and that we are called to provide. It is a welcome offered without exception or exclusion based upon how we look, where we work, our political affiliation, where we live, our past, where we went to school, who we love, and who loves us. It is a welcome of inclusion. It is a welcome of acceptance, loving, and continuing to love. It is the welcome Jesus gives us and calls us to give, unconditional and with no strings attached. Let’s bring praise to God as we serve Him and are welcoming at Grace.