One of the discussions our Congregation Council has been having is about the importance of making it easy for folks to participate in God’s work through the life of this congregation. This is one reason we introduced the option of electronic giving, which makes it easy for folks to give even if they are not able to be with us in person on a regular basis. (And—we have noticed it happening!) That is a terrific step in the right direction and shows real leadership on the part of the Congregation Council that they embraced the idea so fully.
One person who makes my leadership of this congregation easy is Linda Sheetz, our unstoppable parish secretary. Here’s an actual conversation Linda and I had a couple of weeks ago.
Me: All along 422 between home and church I passed three signs that say “MGH Summerfest June 24 – 26.” I’ve lived here for a year, and I don’t know what “MGH” is.
Linda: “Mary Gate of Heaven.”
Me: Now I get it!
The signs I saw communicated a message, but it was not understandable by somebody new to the community. I share my experience with the “MGH” signs because they illustrate an important reality. That is: the church has struggled for a long time with how to communicate our message so that it is easy to understand. The fact that church life is full of insider language that can be overwhelming for a visitor makes it harder. (Imagine you have never been to church before, and somebody directs you to “the narthex” or “the sacristy.”)
Because my style of leadership is so concerned with making sure everyone gets included, I frequently avoid such insider language. My hope is that will make it easier for many—especially newcomers—to participate fully in the life of this wonderful congregation. Diana Butler Bass says it better than I could. “The practice of hospitality opens our hearts to those who are strangers; it anticipates that, in God’s kingdom, there will one day be no strangers.”
Indeed, John the Baptist, whose ministry prepared the way for Jesus (See what I did there? Newcomers to church won’t know who John the Baptist is!) drew from his own religious history to proclaim that the job of those whom God has chosen is to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” He went on to say we do that by making the paths straight, the mountains low, and the rough ways smooth. (Luke 3:4–6) I invite everyone to help me along this path because to make a relationship with this congregation easy is to do God’s work and to do God’s work is to invite everyone to live in the light.
Pastor Scott Paradise