Hospitality Requires Intention and Grace

By Barry Parker, Rector

Posted on September 15, 2014

Sunday, September 28th is Back to Church Sunday. It is our grace-full intention to welcome as many people to St. Paul’s through hospitality, worship, and ultimately an encounter with the living God.

There have been a number of studies in the past few years that highlight a large percentage of people – over 80% – would consider connecting with a faith community, a church, if someone simply invited them. In our increasingly post-churched culture, a growing number of people do not even think to come to church. It is off the radar screen for many – perhaps even your friends or family. With busy lives, there are too many other interesting things to engage.

However, we find it is not the attitude of the non-church goer that is the issue. It is often the fear, hesitation or uncertainly of us as church members who are not convinced we should invite others.

Dr. Thom Rainer studies the changes and issues churches face today. He has found that when church goers were canvassed about the reasons why they are hesitant to invite friends, neighbours, family members or work colleagues to church there were a number of responses. Here is his list of top ten responses (in no particular order).

1.    “I just don’t think about it.”
2.    “I’m afraid I’ll be rejected."
3.    “The music isn’t that good.”
4.    “The preaching isn’t strong.”
5.    “We’ve got too many church problems right now.”
6.    “Our church is already too crowded.”
7.    “Nobody ever challenged me to invite anyone.”
8.    “I don’t know how to start the conversation.”
9.    “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job – not mine – to bring people to church.”
10.   “It’s too far for people to come.”

What reasons would you add? “I’m too shy.” “Religion is private.” “It’s the Rector’s job.” All of us have reasons for not inviting others.

I encourage every parishioner at St. Paul’s Bloor Street to take a step of faith and extend an invitation, an intentional act of hospitality, and welcome someone who has no connection to a church. For example, our Community Email goes to over 700 email addresses. What a connection and impact we could have if all of us invited just one person.

Invite another. Bring them with you to St. Paul’s. Sit with them. Explain things to your visitor. Introduce them to others here at St. Paul’s. Allow them to enjoy the faith community that you value.

We have had a number of tourists from around the world visiting St. Paul’s Bloor Street in recent months. So many have remarked about the energy, the spirit, the hospitality of such a large and diverse urban church. Let’s continue that trajectory, welcoming, inviting, connecting with as many as possible.

Who are you going to invite to Church? Let me know.