“…She laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” --Luke 2:7
Recently our family had the opportunity to watch the 2014 Paddington live action movie. In it Paddington travels by mailbag and ship from “darkest Peru” after having witnessed his uncle’s death and the destruction of his family’s home in an earthquake. He goes to London searching for a new home because he was once promised that he would always be welcomed. It’s a profound moment as Paddington sits alone in the London underground feeling very unwelcomed, overwhelmed, and lost.
We just came from the celebration of Christ’s birth remembering that our Lord and Savior was born in a humble animal stall because there was no place for them in the crowded local accommodations. And all this has me thinking about our communities of the church. We profess to be a kind of family…a church HOME…promising welcome to ALL. Do we fulfill this mission? Are we welcoming? Are we an insider’s culture? Are we truly welcoming of all—even those that might look and act so very different from us?
We’ve been working on our new Saint Stephen website, and I wrote a piece called:
“I’m thinking about visiting: A Visitor’s Welcome”.
Here's the first draft, please check it out and tell me what you think!
Welcome in Christ’s name! We are glad you are thinking of visiting us!
Currently we worship each Sunday at 8:30am.
During Christmas and Easter those times can change somewhat but you’ll always find that information on our bulletin or website. During Lent (the 6 weeks before Easter) we worship on Wednesdays also at 12 noon and 7:00pm. Other evening services such as Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are scheduled throughout the year. The Sunday before Thanksgiving we host a joint community worship together with our brothers and sisters from Saint Ignatius Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church of Antioch.
When you come to Saint Stephen a member will greet you at the door. There is a coat area to hang your coat and you’ll find the bathrooms down the hallway. An usher will give you a paper bulletin that will help you follow along with the service. We have two hymnals where you will find music for the service, one is red, and one is blue. The worship leaders try to direct you to the proper place in each hymnal. Instructions for communion are in the bulletin and given verbally in service.
We are a casual church…we welcome others as Christ welcomes us: just as we are! Some people come in jeans in t-shirts. Some people come in suits. Come as you are! No one is judged for his or her appearance. Our hope is for you to be free to worship God and make a connection with God and our community. If someone doesn’t introduce you to the pastor, please introduce yourself—she’d love to meet you! Whether you need a quiet place to worship or a place to connect and meet others, we try to honor your needs.
After worship coffee, tea, juice, and light refreshments are served down the hallway in the Fellowship Hall. We also have an all-generations “Sunday School” or sharing time called Faith +5 when all ages gather to share our highs and lows, read from the bible, talk about what God is doing in our lives, and pray for each other as we bless each other on our way for the week.
Currently our Confirmation students (7th-8th graders) and our Youth Group (7th-12th grades) also meet on alternate Sundays after worship in the Youth Room.
We also host a “Messy Church” several times throughout the year. Messy Church ( https://www.messychurch.org.uk/ ) is a way for all generations in our congregation to gather in a casual worship environment. We share a meal together, learn more about God’s Word and one another, and use our creative talents to explore our faith. Messy Church is not Christian education, Messy Church is not worship, Messy Church is not fellowship—it is all of these things and more. It is a way to grow our relationship with God and each other…come check it out! You won’t be disappointed.
Saint Stephen is a community seeking to know God and live out our faith. Come and see! And please ask—we’d like to help!
I hope we live up to this welcome…you may have things to add to this—please let me know!
When people visit us, like Paddington, we may never know the deep dark journeys they have been on—what they have seen, what they have lost, what they might be looking for. The best we can do is offer an unconditional welcome, host them in the warmest way possible, and make room for them in our INN—whether for a day or as a new church home.