Come with me: A way of welcome

It’s been one year since I arrived in Belfast. In one year I’ve gone from feeling like a stranger in a strange land to feeling quite at home. I’ve mastered the aisles at the local grocery store, figured out the shortest routes around town, made a few friends and found a home congregation. Prior to settling into a congregation I visited nearly every church in South Belfast. I experienced many types of singing, preaching and praying. In some churches I walked in, sat down and sixty minutes later walked out without anyone saying hello. Occasionally, in other churches, the person sharing a pew gave handshake and a word of welcome. On other Sunday mornings the pastor greeted me as I exited the church. And a few times someone extended an invitation and welcome: Come with me. Come with me to the back of the church and have a cup of tea. Come with me to my home after church and share a meal with my family. Come with me to house group next week and see what you think. Come with me and play badminton with others from the church. Come with me to an open house lunch for newcomers in the church. Come with me. These three words made a difference. While some churches seek to make newcomers feel welcome by inviting them to tea following the service or mention from the pulpit that visitors are most welcome, for me that was not quite enough. Some people might find accompaniment or a “come with me” to be overbearing or pushy, but I found it to be a sign of an authentic, genuine welcome. Not only did I feel invited to “go,” I felt an invitation to join into the lively activity of the church family. One year after I’ve arrived in Northern Ireland I realize I am still new, still an outsider; however, I also feel I am welcomed and invited to join into the life of the church. I hope that I will always remember what it feels like to be a stranger and to be invited to “come with me,” so that I may extend the same invitation to others. Jenna Liechty Martin. Jenna Liechty Martin is from the Mennonite Church in the United States and is volunteering with EMBRACE, a group of Christians working together to promote a positive response to newcomers in Northern Ireland.
Tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Come with me: A way of welcome

  1. Teurayi Rugonye says:

    This might be outdated but just thought it may make a bit of sense if I just contribute to this discussion. I wonder if right now you still feel an outsider. I do too after 5 years around outside the church I fellowship with and the community from my country. Here and there I have made friends but still have that feeling hovering over my mind about not being embeded into the community.
    As the body of Christ we have a hug task of making evryone welcome not only in the church on a sunday morning but beyond church. This is challenging in a society that is individualistic and has been for time a long time. A new culture has to be taught. What blocks it is the history, it has taught people not to trust a stranger and to work hard in protecting themselves.
    It takes prayer to discern who to trust and not. A new comer will obviously feel the resistence more and a lot of work need to be done. May God help us in this nation.
    What is integration? How best can it be promoted in order to get people from all walks of life to have an understanding of the world beyond them? The church still have a lot of work to do to get community members to EMRACE hospitality again without much fear.

    Teurayi Rugonye – A Believer.

  2. Pingback: Come on in: effective and inclusive invitations « EmbraceNI

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *