Expressing the congregation’s welcome

How does welcome look and feel?

Lori entered the sanctuary of Ellsworth Church greeted by warm handshakes and bright smiles.

As she took her seat six rows from the chancel area, she wondered. “Is all of this love and warmth lasting, or is it based on the assumption that every one is or should be heterosexual?”

  • The melodies and lyrics of great music enlightened and soothed her.
  • Words of love and mutuality encouraged her.
  • Readings and the sermon inspired her.

It wasn’t until she stood at the exit about to greet the Pastor that it dawned on her: There are families of every combination, the greeters are male partners of different races, the pastor is a married heterosexual woman, the first reader is a lesbian woman, and the choir is peppered with transgender women and men.

Lori thanked the pastor for a lovely worship and the palpable inclusion. “No,” she thought, “this wasn’t surface, it was real welcome.”

Share the joy

There is no one way or cookie-cutter method to express authentic hospitality. Welcome should reflect the culture and style of your church. However, it should be experienced and felt throughout the entire congregation and the worship.

Take full advantage of community events to exhibit your inclusiveness. Festivals, walks, marches, block parties and Pride events are perfect opportunities to publicly acknowledge your welcome of all people.

Greeters should be comfortable with difference and engage people to help establish a positive experience for your guests at the outset.

  • Has your church included persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity in leading worship?
  • Are there clear representations of your welcome in the liturgy – each time you gather and not just for special occasions?

Raise awareness in the congregation about the injustices, discrimination and rejection experienced by persons because of difference. Integrate acceptance, hospitality and welcome into sermons, prayers and even bulletins. All of these steps will support understanding throughout your church. Remember, as you extend welcome you may find existing members feeling fully visible in ways they had not been before.

Welcome is for everyone and can be expressed by everyone. Use the Resources tab above to search this site for children’s sermons, adult and children’s curricula and other resources to aid you in creating a welcoming environment from pulpit to exit and beyond.