The church I service, like a lot of churches, has a big sign on the front lawn that says ‘All Are Welcome‘. It is my hope that that is a true statement. I think it is, I want it to be. I want ALL people to really feel welcomed at Sackville Baptist.
One of the qualities that drew me to this church was the way they genuinely welcomed children into the sanctuary. The first Sunday I was there, months before I began the canadating process, the Sunday School Coordinator was upfront giving an announcement. Her two children were with her being goofy and half draped over the pulpit. That made me think, ‘These people love having children here, I think I could find a place here.’
For the past few weeks we have been on vacation. I have really enjoyed going to other churches for a visit. It is nice sitting their with no role and no responsibility. Our first two experiences were wonderful, the last one took a very sour turn. We discovered there was at least one exception to the ‘All Are Welcome’ sIgn for at least one person in the church that day.
For one lady the church sign really said, ‘All Are Welcome, EXCEPT Those With Noisy Babies’
While we sat in the service Asher, our six month old son, become hungry which means he became more vocal. He wasn’t full on screaming but he was giving the pastor a run for his money.Since there was at least 30 minutes left in the service Meghan decided to scoot out to feed him. Instead of being back in the five or some minutes I was expecting they didn’t return at all. When Meghan and I found each other after service I could tell she was clearly upset.
While Meghan and Asher were heading out the door an older lady pointed and wagged her finger at them telling Meghan not to come back because the baby was being ‘too loud’. When Meghan told me this I was pretty upset. It isn’t just rude it is downright unchristlike.
We spoke with the pastors and appreciated their response and their explanations. A number of people even made the point to talk with Meghan after the service to let her know that we were welcome noisy baby and all.
But the truth remains the message we heard mostly loudly was ‘you are NOT welcome here’.
Since then I have been thinking about my own church, my own home and my own ways of expressing faith. Are there ways that I am saying with a metaphoric waggled finger ‘Do not come back, you are not welcome’? I hope not. I really do want to welcome ALL people.
Jesus loved the unlovable, he welcomed the unwelcomed, he gathered the outcasts. And he told us to go and do the same. We are commanded to mean it when we say, ‘ALL Are Welcome’.