Cherish The Bowl…
Over the years, I have been sending emails to visitors to Saint Paul’s who fill out a Welcome Card. Sometimes I get a response; other times I do not. Most of our new parishioners received an email from me on either Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Our visitors are most likely to also receive flowers from the altar.
Several weeks ago, I saw a visitor at the 10:30 a.m. service. After the service, I welcomed him and asked if he would like to fill out a Welcome Card. He declined the request, which is also typical. The following week, I saw the same gentleman worshipping at the 10:30 a.m. service. After service, I thanked him for being at Saint Paul’s and again invited him to fill out a Welcome Card. This time he did not decline; he accepted the request and filled out the card.
As is typical of me, I sent him an email on Monday morning. He responded with a beautiful email, telling me about himself and his Anglican upbringing. But he also made this point, which I think is critically important to the life and ministry of this wonderful parish. He said “I live in Bryn Mawr and have been to a few churches there. However, there is nothing to beat a lively, diverse, and energetic church.” When I saw him again on the following Sunday, he said to me “Manny, the email you sent me was the first time that I have ever received an email from a church.”
I think Saint Paul’s has grown ever more diverse over the years, and to me, that is the story we want to tell, that this space is a like a salad bowl — every vegetable that you can think of has a place right in this bowl. Often times it isn’t what we say that assures the ‘other’ of our belief in creating a welcoming space, it is what we do.
We have built a sacred space that feels like a salad bowl with all kinds of God’s green vegetables in it. In order for the ‘other,’ like people from Sri-Lanka, Japan, Nigeria, Ghana, Ecuador, Brazil, Germany, the U.K. and, in fact, from all over the world to find a place in the bowl, we, by our actions, have to cherish the bowl.