"Make all welcome"
This phrase has been a driving statement for our ministry together at IHS the last few years. It turns the first part of our mission statement - that we are a welcoming and inclusive family of faith - and turns it into action. We strive together to be the welcoming and inclusive family of faith we're called to be, not that we are there now. God is calling us forward.
How can we make all welcome in a pandemic? During a quarantine?
How can we possibly make all welcome while also trying to keep all safe and healthy?
Has God stopped calling us to "make all welcome" or stopped calling us to move forward on our accessibility project and capital campaign?
These are challenging questions, but I am confident in one thing. God's call to us has not changed. Before the COVID-19 health crisis and quarantining we faced challenges to be the welcoming community we feel called by God to be. Our capital campaign faced a variety of hurdles to cross and hard decisions to make. Certainly we face new challenges to make all welcome today than we could have anticipated, but God's essential calling to us is as crucial as ever.
First, we are making all welcome even now in quarantine, or at least we are working toward it. Increased social media use during the quarantine is creating an opportunity to reach new people with the good news of Jesus online. It's also raised our awareness of how important maintaining an effective "digital front door" is to being the Church in the 21st century. The challenge with this is being inclusive of those for whom technology is a barrier, not just because of ability but also because of means. Our "in-reach" ministry team has worked to keep those members of our IHS family of faith included who cannot access church online or do not want to.
As we move forward eventually into a time when we can restart our in-person common worship experiences and other community gatherings, we will keep working together to make all welcome. This means creating a system that works not just for our IHS members, but that works to make IHS even more inclusive of others. The World around our parish is suffering, hurting, and longing for God's presence and community. There is a tremendous longing for healing, and if we really believe that we as the Church are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be the active agents of God's healing Spirit in the world, then that means we believe we have the Source and Answer to those longings to offer. We have good news, the best news, that those in quarantine, those sick, those suffering, are not alone. No one is alone. God has not abandoned us. God's love is here for all. The coronavirus is not the end of the story. Human illness, suffering, and even death are not the end of the story. The resurrection of Jesus is the answer to all of the world's longings and in Him there is an ever-flowing spring of Life, the Life of the future age that we can have here and now, even in this mortal life.
Our mission is to proclaim that Gospel and to reconcile all people in unity to God and each other. The question for us to ask at this time is, during this health crisis, how can we be God's agents of reconciliation?
None of this precludes anyone's safety or health. In fact, just the opposite. Our "Make All Welcome" campaign and our accessibility project will make IHS a safer place for for us to return to. Having a weather vestibule, a Narthex, and glass doors to see into the sanctuary among other things will make our building much easier to comply with social distancing standards. Help us reach our goal of making all welcome by contributing to our campaign today right here online.
Can we make all welcome and still keep all safe? We can, and we will, with God's help.
As we move forward into what we are calling Phase 2 and Phase 3 of social distancing efforts, and look to the years to come, we will not abandon the digital front door of our church. We can never afford to neglect online spaces where people are present looking and longing for authentic community and for God.
"Make All Welcome"
This is not just a catchy slogan or phrase. It's a call to God for who we aspire to become at IHS. How will you join God in making all welcome?