Is God relevant in your life?
On a recent trip to New York State with some friends, we passed an old boarded up church. A sign on the front door read "Building for Sale."
One hears a lot about how many Protestant churches these days are struggling to stay alive. At many places, congregations have dwindled, Sunday school programs have faded away, and let's face it - many people have just scratched going to church from their Sunday morning schedule, if it was on their schedule in the first place.
Why is this?
I often hear the argument, "Well, people just don't bring their kids to church like earlier generations did." Or - "God is not important in their life at this time."
I would like to suggest another problem that just may be a contributing factor in why so many churches are struggling with keeping their doors open.
On Mother's Day Sunday, I paid a visit to my family's former church in the Philadelphia area. My mother's ashes are buried in the church's outdoor columbarium. I had about an hour to spare before meeting my sister at her church, so off I went to where we use to gather for worship many years ago.
When I reached the church, I noticed much of the columbarium was overgrown with weeds. After a few minutes of private, quiet meditation in which I gave thanks for being blessed with such a loving mother, I decided to spend some time weeding the columbarium.
Shortly after 10 a.m., the church's main service was letting out, and several members, about 30 of them, made their way across a breezeway to a parish office, to gather for the informal "coffee hour" that followed each weekly service.
I still had about 15 minutes left, so I decided to have "a little fun."
I made my way to the parish office and entered the main hall where the "coffee hour" was being held. I didn't know anyone and certainly no one in the room had any clue who I was. I stopped by a long table and helped myself to a small plate of cheese, crackers and a cup of lemonade.
I walked over to the front of the room and stood in the corner, sipping my drink and nibbling on the cheese. During the next 12 minutes, one woman walked by me, smiled and said, "Good morning." A man walked by and nodded.
That was it. Soon it was time to go.
During my brief visit to the coffee hour, not a single person came up to me to say "Hello. I'm sorry I don't know you. Welcome. You are?"
In your church, at your "coffee hour," do you take time to notice and welcome the stranger, the guest?
My experience on Mother's Day may not be all that unique.
If someone new steps into your church, take a few minutes to say "hello" and help make them feel welcomed. Otherwise, they may walk away, looking for Jesus' love and compassion in another place.
- Holmes is a member of St. John's-Newberry United Methodist Church in Williamsport.