• First Presbyterian Church

Home (Welcome Mat Series 2)

Updated: May 23, 2019

by Tim Haworth

Our website “welcome mat” is entitled “Welcoming You Home”. Why would the church be considered our home? Now, mind you, there are some folks I see around so much that they might as well set up a cot somewhere and just live here. But I think our welcome mat is speaking more figuratively than literally.

The concept of home is a multifaceted one. The dictionary gives us several definitions that show ways that the church can also be considered “home.” Consider the following:

  • A place where one lives; a residence.

  • The physical structure within one lives, such as a house or apartment.

  • A dwelling place together with the family or social unit that occupies it; a household.

  • An environment offering security and happiness.

  • A valued place regarded as a refuge or place of origin.

  • The place where something is discovered, founded, developed or promoted; a source.

  • A headquarters; a home base.

  • An institution where people are cared for.

In the coming weeks we will focus on some of the facets of home that applies to the church. This week I think it is especially appropriate to focus on the middle two definitions. Home is a refuge and a place of security. When we refer to the church as a home we are committing to creating a space where people feel safe and protected.

Sadly, in the world we live in, that is not always the case. Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques - once places of sanctuary - have been turned into places of unspeakable horrors and death. Just last week eleven Jewish worshippers were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. In our recent history: twenty-six congregants at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs were killed during Sunday morning services; nine people were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlotte while attending a Bible study; six members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin were gunned down and an Imam and his friend were fatally shot as they left a New York City mosque.

While mass killings are still rare, threats of violence, vandalism and intimidation against people on the margins of the religious and cultural mainstream are becoming alarmingly more frequent. And when incidents like these occur in our faith home, just like when someone breaks into our own home, we are left feeling vulnerable and insecure.

I don’t have any answers to how we might go about protecting ourselves from someone with evil intent trying to wreak havoc. I don’t know that there really is a way to prevent this type of violence. But there are things we can do to create a church home that can make those who are socially, culturally, financially and spiritually marginalized feel safe, secure and welcome.

When vulnerable people come through our doors do they feel like they are entering a safe place? A place they might call “home”?

Creating such a space is about the people sitting in the pews and how they choose to relate to others. In other words, it’s on us. Do we make all people feel welcome? Have we created a physical space that is open to all, regardless of any physical or mobility challenges? Are we genuinely glad to see each other? Are we glad to meet a stranger and extend a welcome? Are we willing to share our resources with those who have needs? Are we willing to listen to people’s stories without judgement and condemnation? Are we willing to affirm them as they are? Are we willing to respect those who come from other faith traditions or no faith at all?

Are we willing to be a place of safety and refuge by humbly extending the radical, sacrificial and protective love of Christ to ALL?

Honestly, I don’t think we can say “yes” to all those questions. I know I can’t. At least not all the time. But don’t let these questions make you feel frustrated - let them be a challenge! Being people of faith mean recognizing that we are in the process of becoming the people we know God created us to be.

And, we are becoming the church God intends us to be - a place we can all call home.

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