Download entire issue: Let’s Talk Issue 21.3: Are All Welcome In This Place? [pdf, 69k]
Marty Haugen’s hymn (#641 Evangelical Lutheran Worship) affirms YES—in the chorus. The verses, on the other hand, each begin more temperately, an acknowledgement, perhaps, that welcome is an aim at which we’ve not yet arrived, a building still under construction.
Welcome, of course, is a word rich with theological import. Whoever welcomes a child welcomes Christ, and the one who sent Christ, as Christ said (Mark 9:37). And, as Paul reminds us, we’re only able to welcome because we have been welcomed: “Welcome one another as Christ as has welcomed you.” (Romans 15:7)
And yet, how welcoming are our churches? Has the hymn, or the word, become ubiquitous but bland, affirmed but meaningless to our ears? Do our eyes glaze over it, as a doormat with letters on which we wipe our shoes? How can we say it better, sing it better, so that everyone hears it, and joins in the refrain?
Contributors to this issue of Let’s Talk take up these questions and more.
Being welcoming is well and good, Jennifer English says, but the conversation changes when it moves beyond welcome to invitation. English’s thoughtful, practical questions are echoed and continued in a self-assessment tool developed by Nicholas Zook and Adam Warner. In a chapter excerpt from a forthcoming book, Craig Mueller adds mystery as another element of welcome: welcome to the mystery of another, welcome to the mystery within oneself, welcome to the mystery that is faith itself. Michael Fick and Kelly Faulstich consider, with timeliness and care, words of welcome and a community’s attitudes and values about gender and identity. Age is the concern at the top of Frank Senn’s mind, as he points out all the ways churches fail to welcome children, Christ’s command notwithstanding. Finally, in a very popular article first listed in Let’s Talk two years ago, Ben Dueholm reflects on the question of aggressive hospitality. That is, is our welcome mild enough, or distinctive enough, or wide enough, to include the possibility of the welcome being declined?
Welcome to the articles. We welcome your response.