Emerging from the Parish Festival, “This is YOUR Church” the whole idea of belonging was once again acknowledged as a priority for St. Paul’s Church. On Sunday, February 9 we discussed what it was like for us joining the Church; what we’ve heard from others about their experience; and how we can make it better for everyone. We acknowledged that developing a sense of belonging is important for people new to the parish but that it is also important to maintain a sense of belonging for long-time members.
Perhaps one of the most profound images that emerged from the discussion was that of roadblocks. We want to remove as many roadblocks as we can, and for those we can’t, we help people navigate around them quickly and safely.
Without stealing away from one of the other priorities (worship) we recognized that one of the principle ways people experience our community is through our common worship on Sunday morning and there are things we need to be aware of that could be helpful. On the one hand, the Church is people and each one of us needs to continue to be open and welcoming to the stranger and the familiar. On the other hand, the clergy need to continue to preach engaging, thought-provoking and accessible sermons. Our theological stance in the world is expressed both ways and we might consider having a brochure for seekers to take away, that expresses clearly who we are.
Several ideas were generated in the discussion at the Potluck. Parish Council will review them and see which can be accomplished.
Some of the ideas are: breakfast between and after services; invited others to social events or activities outside the church; encourage groups to form (men’s, women’s, youth, widows for example). Simply being a part of a fundraising or other activity brings people into community.
We could publish a book for young children to explain the Church and Christianity; develop a group that visits the sick and shut in; send “thinking of you cards.” We could have the Church-building open during the day to the public; be “Parish Hosts” for concerts and other activities in the church; host kitchen parties or ceilidhs. We could utilize our signage; advertise services in Friday’s Guardian; advertise events beyond the congregation and out into the community; have a QR code to access website on phone; improve the website; and, develop a regular newsletter. We need an updated parish directory. We could publish a leaflet to hand out to newcomers and visitors. We could host Sunday evening concerts, worship services, other music or speakers; host Seeker Suppers.