It is interesting that such a common word, like “welcome”: meaning, to greet someone in a friendly manner might have originally meant, “will walk.” In other words, it wasn’t about what the host does to a visitor, but a sign of the visitor’s willingness to be received. “Welcome,” is a compound word, comprising “will” (desire) and “to come” (the Old English “come” meant “to walk”).
“Welcome” is one of many words that has had this kind of transformation of meaning. These shifts regularly happen. The unusual thing is that this transformation happened very early in both the English and German versions. It makes sense, the word expressing one’s willingness to receive hospitality becomes the word for offering hospitality.
When we welcome people to worship we are acknowledging their willingness to receive our hospitality. It speaks to an often ignored aspect of hospitality. Spiritually speaking, the line between host and visitor is obscured. So much so that the roles can be reversed.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who was canonized last week by the Roman Catholic Church, spoke of the people she helped, the poorest of the poor, as Christ in disguise. If that is true, and I’m inclined to believe it to be, then who’s the host, St. Teresa or Christ? It is as true in Charlottetown as it is in Calcutta, that every visitor to St. Paul’s Church is an opportunity for us to welcome Christ.
I know that we are only too happy to show hospitality to anyone and everyone who darkens the doorway of our building and brightens the heart of our community. But, but, but… a mutually satisfying welcome most often depends on one more thing, an invitation. So be sure to invite people to our worship. Invite people for any Sunday, any time that we gather.