The first three words of our Chapel’s mission statement are: “Welcoming the stranger…”. I want to tell you today what that means from the perspective of the stranger.
When I made the decision to retire and move to another state, I set out to find a church home. The town to which I was moving had a small Episcopal church in the town center that I had visited several times before while on vacation. I did my research, looked at the church’s website, and emailed the rector. I told him of my relocation plans and my hope to make St. Michael’s my new church home. We emailed back and forth and then, naturally, became friends on Facebook. I emailed him the week before I was set to move, letting him know that I’d be at the 9:45 service that next Sunday.
That Sunday morning, I pulled into the church parking lot and I realized that I was shaking. Later, it occurred to me that my anxiety stemmed from my fervent hope that my encounter with this church family would be just so good. I got out of my truck, headed across the parking lot with 5 minutes to spare, and spotted the rector visiting with folks in the open-air narthex. He saw me coming across the parking lot, raised his robed arms out wide, and in a booming voice said, “Mississippi! You made it!”.
Yeah. I made it, alright. I experienced a welcome like I’d never had before at that little church in the town center. The people of St. Michael’s quickly became my sisters, my brothers, and my family away from home. How are we welcoming the strangers in our midst? What are we doing to spread the love of Christ to those who come to our Chapel? I pray that we reflect that love as we welcome the stranger during our upcoming Holy Week, Easter, and beyond. I pray that we make the stranger’s encounter with us just so good.