It happens all the time. I’m in the library or grocery store and I bump into someone I know. They immediately apologize: “Pastor, I’m so sorry I haven’t been to church!” If you’ve uttered those words in front of me, you know my immediate response:
No need to apologize! As long as you know First Congregational Church of Reading is your home for when you need it – whether that’s once a month, once a year, or once in a lifetime!
The way I see it, in a world like ours there are few safe places – literally, few “sanctuaries” (a place of refuge or safety) – where we can feel loved, held, comforted, supported, and affirmed. Even if it starts to feel rote, those words of welcome I say every Sunday are a reminder of our wide, radical, and vibrant welcome mat which we roll out no matter who you are. For some, they may not hear that often (or often enough). They may have been told by other churches that they don’t belong (if not in word, in action) because of who they are. So I take that welcome seriously.
So, will you do me a favor? Don’t apologize on Christmas Eve. We’re just so glad you’re here! And you bet that counts if you attend online, too. After all, Christmas is when we tell the story of a weary couple who receive refuge in the home of an innkeeper who makes room for them anyway, even when all the other innkeepers put up their “no vacancy” signs (obviously not literally, but you get the idea).
May this season bring you glad tidings of God’s enthusiastic welcome.
Rev. Emelia Attridge, Minister
First Congregational Church of Reading, United Church of Christ