What makes worship inviting? This is an age-old question. We answer it in a variety of ways and change or improve all the time. For us here at the First Presbyterian Church of Everett, we strive to do this in three ways. A disclaimer: these are my views, not a policy or procedure here, but as I’ve been a part of our worship, listened to members share what draws them to our sanctuary, and through my reading/observing/praying, I share my reflections.
We make worship inviting here through our welcome, our connections, and our honesty. Notice that I did not mention our worship style. I did not focus on our sanctuary. I did not hype our staff. All of those are important. People are drawn to our worship style. We are blessed with a beautiful sanctuary. Our staff and leadership work hard to prayerfully fulfill our calling to serve and provide avenues for our congregation to worship. Yet, honest relationships are what truly draw people into worship and into a deepening of walk with Jesus.
Those relationships start with a warm welcome. Welcoming each other to worship on Sunday is not just the greeter’s job. For those of us who are members or friends of FPCE, part of our roll Sunday mornings is to welcome each other and those we do not know here. We do that through handshakes, sharing of our names, asking questions, sharing about our lives, listening, and connecting shared likes or interests. This is more than the Passing of the Peace, though that time is important, and our welcome begins from the moment we walk in on Sunday mornings and extends through coffee time. I am blessed to be able to stand at the door after the benediction to greet people as we leave worship, but it is awesome to learn when someone has invited a friend, a new person, or someone they have not seen in a while to have a cup of coffee with them. That is all part of our welcoming and extended worship throughout our week.
When we welcome people, then we begin to form connections. I love watching people gather on Sunday mornings from the chancel. I watch people embrace, share about their weeks, check in with prayer requests, and introduce friends to others. Yes, we give each other space to prepare our hearts for worship, but as beings who want to be known, when we greet each other by our names, are able to ask questions about each other’s week, and let each other know that it’s great when we’re together, then we are building connections. I think we’d all like it if those connections led to greater participation, but our goal is not numbers. Our goal is not programmatic. Our goal is for all of us to connect to God and the body of Christ first. How those connections and relationships bless through gifts of presence and talents becomes secondary.
Our connections are strengthened by humble and vulnerable honesty. I do share a lot from the pulpit. That’s just me and some days I have a hard-enough time just being who I am. Being honest does not mean we have to share beyond what we find comfortable or some deep dark secret. Honesty means we work on taking down our masks and sharing our hearts with each other. When our connections with each other are honest and open, when we allow for the space for each of us to be human, and when we are humble enough to say we don’t know all the answers, but we’re willing to sit by, listen to, and pray for each other, that makes us feel welcome.
Being welcoming to each other is akin to being a good friend. We want friends who greet us and no matter how long we’ve been apart, we want friends who connect with us on more than one level, and our good friends share life in honest and open ways. We don’t always have to agree. We don’t really want to be similar on every issue. We just want friends who are willing to listen to us as we listen to them and then be open to experiencing life together. That is being the body of Christ.
As we move toward our fall season, our invitation is to welcome, connect, and strive for honesty in our congregation. We do a good job of this, but every now and then we need to reflect and be encouraged to use our gifts rather than rely on just a few. We can participate in a key component of our corporate worship: making our time together more than just an experience with song and sermon, but a truly inviting and engaging time for all. I hope that you’ve had a great summer and know that you are always welcome to join us as we worship, grow in faith, and are sent as followers of Christ from our little corner of Everett.