A special kind of welcome

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

As we gear up to finally opening up the church for public worship, we need to plan the welcome that we will provide. Bishop Steven was speaking at our Deanery Chapter over Zoom this week and he said that rather than coming out of the woods (in terms of the Church getting back to normal) he fears that we are only just entering them! 

https://youtu.be/0cz2q3cazYs
The Third Sunday after Trinity. William Whyte provides the homily
click here to watch the service

Whenever we start gathering back in church, we need to make sure that people’s needs are understood, that we protect volunteers and church workers but that we also create an environment of beauty and simplicity. We don’t want to be governed by the latest IT trickery or distracted by protocols and directives. The business of welcoming well needs careful consideration and I would be delighted to hear your views about coming back to church. What might it mean to you? What are your cares and concerns? What have you missed and what are you looking forward to the most? 

At the heart of all of this is the Sacrament. Many of you have had to deny yourselves the presence of Christ and the rhythm of life that flows from taking part in the eucharistic feast. God welcomes us not only in the sacraments of the Church but in the sacrament of life. My hope is that we have all had time and space to consider the beauty of creation and the amazing virtues of human kindness, compassion and solidarity. 

All of these virtues are required as we formulate a welcome programme to start church again in this time of pandemic and change. I have included this, slightly irreverent but reflective piece on a different type of welcome. The themes of justice and inclusivity run through it and describes a community that desires growth of the soul and the charism of seeing God in others. I thought I would share it with you:

WELCOME

     We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich or dirt poor. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

     We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our priest who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the bookies, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you! 

I will inform everyone of the PCC’s decision about when the church will open its doors to public worship and how we will set about this. In the meantime you can come to church for private prayer. The church is open Saturday – Wednesday from 10am – 2pm. I would like to thanks Sarah Scheele for organising the rota and for the 20 or so volunteers who are acting as welcomers. 

OTHER NEWS

CLARE LEAL’S ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD

Clare Leal, our curate, was due to be ordained this weekend before the pandemic took hold. However, I am delighted to report that Clare will be ordained priest. The ordination service will take place at St Michael’s on 20th September. Although deferred from Petertide, I think it is especially apt that Clare should be ordained at Michaelmas, our Patronal Festival! Please continue to pray for Clare and her ministry at St Michael’s, remembering also Dave and their son John.

STEWARDSHIP REQUEST

Our church has been affected by the lockdown as much as any other organisation that has had to close its doors to the public. We have not been able to hire out the halls. We have also lost the weekly giving offering Sunday by Sunday. It costs approaching £450 per day just to keep the building and grounds going and well maintained, and we are very dependent on goodwill offerings and donations. Many of our parishioners pay regularly by Standing Order through the Parish Share Scheme or by Direct Debit. These regular payments have become a lifeline. May I ask all those who do not give in this way to consider setting up a Standing Order or Direct Debit. The instructions to do so follow here.

I fully understand that this request comes at a time when many of us are feeling the pinch. I am also aware of the sacrificial generosity of many in order to support the church’s continuing ministry and mission.

Regular stewardship Standing Orders

Transferring directly into our bank account is the most efficient for us and, by using your online banking, this is usually straightforward and leaves you in complete control. No need to give your private bank details to us or any external organisation — just give your bank our bank details. You can change the amount at any time using your online banking, or visiting your local branch. Our bank is CAF Bank:

Account:  St Michaels & All Angels Summertown
Sort Code:  40-52-40
Acc No.:  00011607

Please don’t forget to Gift Aid if you are able. The Gift Aid form is attached to this message.

VIRTUAL COFFEE AFTER SUNDAY CHURCHWe meet on Zoom at 11.30am to share some thoughts about the week or even the church service which is produced for each Sunday. This is a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends and meet others who we haven’t become acquainted with. Please email Clare for an invitation: curate@stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.