Of all my travels around cyberspace recently, a welcome notice via blogger Jon Acuff most caught my attention and that of other online denizens. It comes from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community in Dunedin, a small city on the Florida Gulf Coast just about half an hour from where I grew up.
A friend of Jon's attended worship there recently and was surprised and then delighted by the following written welcome given out at the church:
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.
We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.
If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!
Many of us Christians in our various cyber-haunts (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.) have been passing around this welcome from our Catholic kindred. How many other congregations can honestly make this same claim? And how many of us ought to be considering adding this statement, or something very like it, to whatever welcome we give our visitors?
How about giving this kind of welcome to our members as well? Couldn't we United Methodists use a little kindness from each other after this year's contentious season of unholy "conferencing"?
Warning: In my experience of striving to follow Jesus these many years, opening doors like this can lead to opening hearts and minds as well.
PS: Our Lady of Lourdes' website is pretty cool, too!