We are on the cusp of fall and start-up of many of our regular programs and ministries that take a break over the summer. I think it is great that we as church have a number of “beginnings” throughout the year as each one gives us a chance to enter into new ministries or projects, and to re-commit ourselves to existing ones.
I was reflecting recently on the importance of names. Being called by name can have a powerful effect, even deepening our relationship with one another. I can still remember visiting a church a number of years ago and the greeter who welcomed me asked my name. By the time I was seated in the pew I had 3 people walk over and in some variation say, “Dana, welcome to St. X. My name is X.” It was a small thing but as you can tell, a very powerful experience of feeling welcomed. Now if everyone had come and greeted me I might have been a little overwhelmed, but it was being calledby name that was so powerful. I know that many of us know each other’s names, but I also know that we all have certain people whose names we cannot remember or perhaps do not know. I know that when we say in the announcements “please talk to so and so”, I occasionally get the whispered question, “Could you point out X to me?” Being able to call each other by name is an important part of building community. As we make another new beginning, I want to encourage you to find and wear your name tag. If you do not have one or cannot find it in the rack in the Upper Room, please let the sidesperson or myself or Margaret know and we will make one for you.
Another aspect for me of creating community is breaking down some of the traditional boundaries between insiders and outsiders, and some of the hierarchical boundaries that can be prevalent especially in more liturgical congregations. Our worship lends itself to centering out those who don’t know the service as we flip from page to page and book to book. That is one reason we project the service and I try to give page numbers and identify whether it is prayer book or hymnal. Breaking down some of those divisions or boundaries is reflected in the fact that I typically preach from the front of church rather than the pulpit. Pulpits were created and necessary in the days before sound systems when the preacher needed to speak out over the congregation to be heard. For me preaching from the front is also symbolic of my being part of the community rather than standing over it or outside of it. I feel a greater connection, that I am one of you when I stand there. I am also better able to engage in conversation as part of the sermon when I am closer to you. There are special days, like Christmas and Easter, when out of respect for tradition, I will likely use the pulpit. As part of being a vertically-challenged person it makes it easier to be seen when we have large crowds.
As we seek to be a welcoming community let us continually reflect on what we do and how we do it, whether it builds community or builds divisions, includes or excludes, and seek to adapt accordingly.
May we seek to be community to all who come, welcoming friend and stranger alike.
Blessings, Reverend Dana