For three weeks we attended worship at Wesley United Methodist Church and only talked to three people: the greeter at the door, the minister after the service, and the lone member of the congregation who welcomed us. Wesley is a big church (over 1,000 members) with lots of snowbirds. I’m sure the members there are reluctant to say hello because they can’t tell who is a visitor, who is a snowbird, and who is a member.
So Tom and I decided to be proactive and join a small group. We had hoped to attend the suppers on Wednesday nights and go to Bible Study. But we weren’t really interested in any of the studies and it is hard to get there in time for supper. Wednesday night just wasn’t going to work.
Yesterday Tom and I tried a Sunday School class. Wesley UMC has an excellent website. The website describes all their Sunday School classes, who teaches them, and the target audience. Based on the description, we decided to try the New Discoveries Class.
We showed up at 9:45 and found the room but the light was off and no one was in the room. Next door was “The Wesley Cafe” with people getting coffee and a woman, Janet, asked if she could help us find something. We told her we were looking for the New Discoveries Sunday School class. She told us, “stay here and I’ll find out.” While we were waiting, we started talking to a couple of other women in the room. Pat and Diana invited us to go to their Sunday School class around the corner.
Janet came back with the information that the New Discoveries class would be meeting after the contemporary worship service. We weren’t sure when that would be, so we went with Pat and Diana to their class. After all, they invited us!
We ended up in the Seekers Class, which was very welcoming. They seemed genuinely delighted we were there. The description says “They are faithful and supportive of church ministries. Middle age to older adults.” That sounds like a good group for us, except that we were the youngest people in the class! I know I struggle with age categories sometimes – I think of myself as “young retired” – but I think they would have been safe to say the class was older adults.
There were 30 people in the class and they were on the first week of a 12 week video study called “Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament” by Dr. Sandra Richter. We had time for introductions, prayer concerns, and then watched the video. Afterward we had a short discussion. The video was very interesting, and it looks like it will be a good study.
Several people took time to talk to us after Sunday School. One person made an effort to seek us out after worship, welcome us, and invite us to come back. We don’t feel like we “belong” at Wesley yet, but it is a start.
How about you? When have you felt like an outsider at a church? Who welcomed you and helped you fit in? How can you invite someone or welcome a stranger to church this week?