On Sunday evening, I led a service at church on the theme of Welcome. As it was dubbed 'alternative worship' I let my creative impulses take over! At the front I had the communion table, with an array of cupcakes and the word 'welcome' stretched across the front. Around the church were several 'welcome stations' - using words and images to think and reflect upon the theme of welcome, being welcomed and being welcoming! These included photos, bible verses, quotes and poetry. Some were displayed using digital scrapbooking software to frame them nicely.
The stations themselves were mainly decorated noticeboards with space around them, although at one 'station' I had pieces of paper where people could write down the things that made them feel welcome. There was also a big pile of bean bags in one corner, as well as a couple of little tables next to certain noticeboards with a vase of flowers, an open bible and a small wooden cross.
The idea was that people should feel welcome right there and then as well as reflecting on the theme in general. So as well as using liturgy, scripture and song we had some music playing in the background in the middle, where people could wander around the welcome 'stations', have a cupcake (!) or simply sit and reflect as they desired.
It was a good turn out for an evening service and as I began the service I noticed a couple of new faces. One thing I had kept on imagining during my preparations was the possibility of someone walking in during the service. Rather bemused, I prayed for this 'hypothetical' person during my preparations. Imagine my quiet delight when someone did walk in during the service and was made to feel very welcome!
As usual there are things I wish I'd done differently but overall I think it went well and people were able to have space and time to feel welcome and reflect on the wider theme of hospitality, asking questions like 'what makes you feel welcome?', 'who are those who are made to feel unwelcome?' and 'how can we be more welcoming?' I deliberately kept these questions broad - so that they encompassed areas of church, society, family, friends and communities, so that whatever their background, people would be able to think about these things.
I may, if I get the chance, post some of the quotes and resources I used as separate blog posts. We're having some time off shortly and I deliberately won't be online much, but if I have time (!) I will schedule some posts!