A Welcome Like Christ Would Give
posted on June 29
A Welcome Like Christ Would Give
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Romans 15:4-7, NRSV
The United Methodist Church is having a lot of conversations about what a full Christian welcome looks like. There is great debate over how full (or how limited) that welcome should be. Is it an Old Testament welcome? Or is it a New Testament welcome? Based on law, or based on grace? Do some deserve a fuller welcome than others?
From where do we get our theological notion of welcome? Our cultural notion of welcome? It often comes from experience, not scripture. It is lived out in the world, and we have often copied and pasted it on to the church. Welcome is on trial every day in the public sphere, at the dinner table, and in the Sanctuary. I see people welcomed, and unwelcomed, in many settings. The church is clearly not the only place that struggles with welcome, but it is the only place that unilaterally should never struggle with welcome. Everything we do must be done “in accordance with Christ Jesus.”
If you have experienced an unconditional welcome, you know how good it feels. If you have experienced a conditional welcome, you know how bad it feels. If you are “on trial” – that stinks. If someone is watching for “one false move” – that stinks, too. To summarize, we know in our spirits when we are welcomed and when we are not welcomed. The Apostle Paul knew this, too. He worked hard to teach the ancient churches the practice of a Christian welcome. All the work of the “former days” (The Law of the Old Testament) was good, but it only prepared us for the hope of Jesus Christ, which is always found in grace. Exclusion taught us about inclusion. And Jesus Christ taught us about welcome.
So, we embrace a new season of welcome. This week is MOVING WEEK in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. We don’t have too many moves this year in the Northern Piedmont District, but we do pause this week to give each of our new pastors an unconditional Christian welcome in Christ. We welcome you to the neighborhoods, the parsonages (if applicable), the offices, the Sanctuaries, the communities, the dinner tables, the schools and civic clubs, and most of all to the collective life of our District. We love you, your stories of faith, your mutual hope in Christ, and we embrace your giftedness. We believe that God has brought you into our midst, and we welcome you as Christ has welcomed us – unconditionally with grace and joy:
- Rev. Brian Braunschweiger - To Mount Zion (Stokesdale)
- Rev. Kelly Crissman - To the new Sandy Ridge-Newlyn Street Charge
- Rev. Stephen Fitch - To Shiloh (Liberty)-Bethel (Climax)
- Rev. Katey Galyon - Newly commissioned Deacon at Christ (Greensboro)
- Rev. Jim Groome - To Mount Vernon (Trinity)
- Rev. John Henry - To Holmes Grove (Greensboro)
- Rev. Joe Hout - To Salem (Reidsville)-St. John (Eden)
- Rev. Chuck Hutchens - To Eden-Mount Tabor (Madison)
- Rev. Rodvegas Ingram - To St. Matthews (Greensboro)
- Rev. Lisa Johnston - To Fairgrove (Reidsville)
- Rev. Carl Manuel - To Memorial (High Point)
- Rev. Nina Miller - To Bethlehem (Reidsville)-Wentworth (Wentworth)
- Rev. Matt Morris - To Tabernacle (Greensboro)
- Rev. Sue Anne Morris - To Spray (Eden)
- Rev. Lauren Sims-Salata - To Leaksville (Eden)
- Rev. Rennie Salata - To Leaksville (Eden)
- Rev. Christi Taylor - To Woodmont (Reidsville)
This is our prayer for you:
Holy God of Life, Shepherd of our Ministries -
We thank you for bringing new servants to our Northern Piedmont family. Equip them for every task, and be with them in every moment. May they be welcomed in the spirit that each church wishes to welcome the newcomer. And may that spirit be the true spirit of your Son, Jesus Christ. Give them sacred space to unpack, re-center, and find their devotional rhythms just as quickly as they find their coffee pots and toothbrushes. Help them take on the mantle, and do the next right thing in their churches. May their laity, their missional network leaders and their new clergy neighbors offer them a warm welcome. And may you, the God of steadfastness and encouragement, grant us to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together we may with one voice glorify you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
In a Spirit of True Welcome,
Rev. Bev Coppley