Do you remember being new to St. Andrew’s? Perhaps that is a distant memory and you have been a part of the church family here for many years already. Maybe, like me, it is an easy thing to remember because you are still very new – this is only my third week here (since moving back to Hong Kong)! The first Sunday, I looked out across the room after a service and saw face after unfamiliar face, unsure of who to approach and who to talk to. I imagine that feeling will stay with me for at least a few weeks yet. Maybe you know the feeling all too well!
It can be daunting for a newcomer to church. Even if someone has been a Christian for many years, a new church comes with a whole new set of people and ways of doing things that can take some time to settle into. For those for whom the idea of church and meeting Christians is an entirely new experience, it can be even more of an overwhelming experience.
If you are feeling like a fish out of water, can I reassure you that you are most welcome! The Bible reveals to us a God who loves to extend a warm welcome to those who were once far off. Jesus shows us that God the Father is full of love that reaches out to the stranger and invites them in. “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” – John 6:37
As followers of Jesus, we want to make sure that every person who visits St. Andrew’s experiences that offer of friendship. It may take some time to establish connections and to feel at home here, but we want to do everything we can to help you. Please do introduce yourself to the person leading the service or consider filling out a ‘Welcome Card’ that will help us to connect with you. If you are feeling brave, then go and say ‘hello’ to someone sitting near you!
For longer-standing members of St. Andrew’s, there is the responsibility and privilege of sharing in the work of our Father in heaven. As he loves, so we too are to love. As he welcomes, so we too are to welcome. There is an opportunity here for us all to commit ourselves to welcoming others into church each week. It may be tempting to arrive just as the service starts and to leave straight away at the last ‘amen’. Instead, perhaps we could look around the room before or after the service so that we can greet someone we have not met before.
Ask the Holy Spirit to give us eyes to see where there are needs around us and compassionate hearts to care for strangers.
On my part, I look forward to getting to know each of you better. I would be really pleased if you wanted to come and say hello, whether you’re new to St. Andrew’s or have been coming here for longer than you can remember.