Move Over!

This week starts the last round of four “tips” covering Fellowship, Revenue Management, Evangelization and Stewardship.  After that, the 26 posts in this series will repeat (with some minor adjustments, of course).

Why will they repeat?  The same reason that our readings for Sunday Mass repeat every three years.  The same reason that our readings for daily Mass repeat every two years.  With repetition, we are at a different place in life, and may be affected differently by the reading.  With repetition we may not “get” the message until we’ve heard it over and over again.  Marketing professionals know this to be a fact.  Teachers do too.  They must present a difficult lesson several times and in different ways so that all learners can grasp and eventually master the concept.

The message doesn’t change; the message changes us.

This week’s entry speaks to Fellowship, and the necessity of welcoming those who are invited to worship and celebrate with other members of our faith.  The key words in that statement are “welcoming,” “invited,” and “celebrate.”

We sing, “All Are Welcome.”  Signs proclaim “All are welcome” near the church’s doors.  There is a place for everyone around the table.  The priest welcomes everyone in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  “All” is a very important word, especially in today’s culture.  If “all are welcome,” then we must welcome those who are sinners, and who are not “like” us, but are called to worship and praise!  Jesus welcomed the sinner, rather than judge or exclude them.  The Pharisees were the masters of exclusion; Jesus is simply, “The Master.”

We are all called to worship.  While there are many attempts to reconcile the actions of the secular world with the Church (the people of God), all are welcome to worship, as we are all sinners because we are all human.  However, when individuals are employed by the Church, individuals are called to be living examples of the faith we espouse.  We can certainly stray from that path, but Jesus’ reminds us that when our sins are forgiven, we are to “go and sin no more.”

Today at worship, there are those parishioners who get to Mass a half-hour early to get a seat, then “place” themselves at the end of pew.  When others begin to arrive, they seem annoyed when the family of 6 asks them if they can be seated together as a family in the empty space in the middle of the pew.  One of three things happens:

1) The family receives a glaring stare, and the disgruntled end-of-the-pew dwellers are forced to move to the center, grudgingly allowing the family to share the space.  Perhaps it’s because the children may fuss.  Perhaps it’s because one child is an infant, and another is a restless toddler.  Perhaps it’s because the end-of-the-pew dwellers were asked to move.

2) The end-of-the-pew dwellers stand up and allow the family egress to the space, then return to their privileged post of pew endcap.

3) The end-of-the-pew dwellers simply move their knees to the side, causing the children, mom and dad and the kids to climb over their “neighbors.”

I wonder if the end-of-the-pew dwellers wonder why the family of 6 didn’t get there earlier, since if they did, then they wouldn’t be inconvenienced.  Until you try to get 3 or more kids ready for Sunday morning Mass at this time in history, don’t question it.  When a family of 6 chooses to come to Mass rather than participate in the community soccer league, that’s a reason to celebrate!

Besides, if all are invited to worship, then all should be welcomed – not at the door by a greeter, but at the pew by those who are there.  It sends a mixed message to have someone at the door welcome a family, but then 30 seconds later, someone offers them dagger-eyes for arriving after the people at the end of the pew did.

Back in the day, my dad was an usher.  Ushers would take people to their seats, and tell people to make room for the folks coming in.  Today, the ministry of usher seems to have been replaced by the ministry of greeter.  While greeter is nice, even WalMart does that…and we’re called to be counter-cultural.

Recall the parable of the workers in the vineyard.  Did the workers who arrived late receive the same reward as those who started the day on time?  Yes.  Why?  Because God sees not as we see.  How would you feel if you were invited to a friend’s house, and when you arrived, the door was opened and you were greeted with an excited “Hello!”  Then, as you moved to the table to greet others that are there and perhaps snag a chair, you’re glared at by the guests that have already arrived, as if you are intruding on their space, or there were people blocking the door that you had to wade through to get to a seat?  What if this happened week after week?  Would you be excited to come to that person’s house again?  Would you even return, or make excuses about not being able to visit…especially if it was just for an hour?

Now think about all those people who don’t come to worship anymore, except, perhaps, on a special occasion.  Are you welcoming them?  If “all are welcome,” then you need practice what you sing.

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