(This entry is part of an ongoing collection of blogs that examine the future of congregations post-COVID19. Each entry forms itself around a question looking for clarity or even answers.)
In post-COVID congregations, some questions will remain for the people of God to wrestle with. One seems particularly important for the future of the Church: Who’s welcome and who isn’t? In most places, “All are welcome here!” is probably the default answer. Written statements of purpose, mission or welcoming speak well of congregations’ intentions.
In practice, though, that ideal becomes more difficult. Welcoming requires deep hospitality. Beyond Sunday-morning greetings and smiles, welcoming also extends into the lives of members, visitors, strangers and aliens. Welcoming churches become places to find friends, to be wrapped into communities of intimacy and love. To rediscover life purpose, to be safe and to find wisdom. In those ways, “Welcome” extends beyond accepting new members, certainly beyond “getting them involved.”
It can be difficult to continue to welcome everyone. During the long months of COVID life—accompanying and continuing into years of political strife—a subset of our fellow citizens has become perpetually angry, perhaps even addicted to its influence. Some purport to be followers of Jesus and have attached their anger to their congregations. Because anger creates anger—and worse—those who live with constant rage might eventually destroy their churches, their leaders and their pastors.
To be honest, my hospitality does not readily extend to those whose anger constantly controls their bodies, minds and spirits. My reasons are simple: Too-ready anger doesn’t leave much room for love, and constant anger eventually leads to individual or congregational death. Those addicted to their fury may not be able to submit themselves to repentance or confession, and they may quickly draw others into reciprocal rage.
I want to follow Christ’s welcoming example. But I don’t know how or if to welcome those who are hardened to wrath.
Perhaps I am wrong….?
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