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13 March 2006

Comments

Lynzy

as a relative newcomer to st silas i have found the church to be very welcoming, altho have the added benefit of knowing a couple of people who introduced me to a couple more, etc, etc! however, the few times i have ventured alone i was sat next to and chatted to by a luvly girl , who shall remain nameless as i cant remember her name!! the next week i came alone again and was invited out to the pub after to meet more new people!!maybe because i was on my own, but it was very encouraging and i rallied on back the next week to meet my new friends! it seems there are a number of people who attend st silas infrequently, and maybe don't realise there are other infrequenters too! so i guess it's a challenge to the regulars to be on the lookout- maybe a mugshot board would be useful (altho potentially scary!)!

like Ms gadgetvicar i also made that same mistake at st silas, of running out after someone i'd never seen before, (just in case he was new and no1 spoke to him), only to discover he has been attending for at least 5 years!! oh well- i'd rather look a bit silly than unfriendly, altho i guess its all in the way u phrase ur opening line!!

Rebecca

Hi David,
Thank you for explaining about a Welcoming Church and why it is important to welcome people and I completely agree with you on this.

But three points:
First, I do think that St Silas is a truly welcoming church and I dont just mean the Welcome Team but everyone right from yourself inviting new people to come and speak to you after the service to everyone else. I dont think there is any true St Silesian who doesnt remember to say 'Hello' to people around. I think its important to have a Welcome Team but its even more important toi have a welcoming leader of the church whether you call the leader a Priest or Rector or Minister or Pastor and other friendly staff and of course a friendly congregation.

Second, I think the Welcome Team's welcome at St Silas is just fine.. low key rather than gushy and too effusive which can become intimidating to some people if its overdone with everyone seeming to pounce on you to say 'Welcome' because some people may have come to the church to pray and meditate and too many people especially the bossy types crowding round asking all sorts of questions may turn some people away. Dont you think thast some people would be uncomfortable if they were crowded around all the time they were in a church with people popping up all the time when all they wanted was to join the service, reflect and pray?

Third, I dont see why someone has to actually break down in tears or alternatively write mean-spirited reviews if they werent happy with the welcome. It takes two to tango and maybe they should ask themselves if they shouldnt have stretched out their own hands to the people in the church and said 'Hello' and introduced themselves. As you know I love visiting as many new and different churches as I can whenever I get time and often there are no welcoming teams as with Catholic, Orthodox and some Protestant churches too but that has never stopped me from saying 'Hello' and always I get a warm response and a hearty welcome after that if there was no welcoming team at the door.

David, you and everyone else at St Silas really shouldnt worry or underestimate yourselves by just one petty minded review.
Like I said its a good thing for that reviewer that he hasnt met me yet or he wouldnt hear the end of it! I think that St Silas is a lovely warm friendly church and you and everyone at St Silas are so warm and generous spirited that such a review seems to hurt you all so much and cause so much of heart burning and soul searching that I feel very bad about this and jumpoed in defence of St Silas and you all.

Love and God's blessings,
Rebecca

Simon Varwell

If my review of St Silas came over as mean-spirited or petty minded or has hurt members of the church, then I'm sorry - this was not my intention. All I was doing was giving an honest perspective.

Indeed, most of what I had to say about my experience of St Silas (particularly the upbeat worship, brilliant sermon, lovely venue) was entirely positive, which is exactly why I want to come back. Yes nobody spoke to the two of us, but surely that warranted a mention too just like the plus side.

All I could do in the review was comment as honestly and fully as I could - what I wrote was simply my personal experience, and no doubt a different visitor with a different perspective or personality would see things in another (no less right or wrong) way.

Rebecca, I really hope we do meet when I return - I find these sorts of discussions fascinating! I have seen - and reported - what a good place St Silas is, and look forward to experiencing it again (albeit with full kevlar body armour...!)

Rebecca

Hi Simon,
Thank you fot your letter and I sincerely apologize for using perhaps harsher words than I meant in rushing to defend St Silas but as that saying goes I 'threw the baby out with the bathwater' without focussing on the positive points in the review. I hope I am forgiven and I look forward to meeting you the next time you are at St Silas.. just ask David to introduce us and I am sure he will and probably at the same time remind me of the story of Prince Llywelyn who without stopping to think could only think of his missing baby son when he killed the faithful hound Gelert.. I think David will also pointr out that you and I have something in common in that I love visiting as many churches as I can simply to see how we Christians inspite of different denominations and churches worship the same God and believe in the same Jesus and read the same Bible.

Regarding welcomes and welcomers in churches in general I think the main point people forget is that welcomes are necessary but when they are overdone with everyone rushing to meet the new persons then it could put some people right off.. Some people would actually feel very intimidated by that kind of effusive gushy welcome that one associates with either (1) those the mainstream churches call cults or sects like Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Moonies, Christian Science, EST etc (and no matter what their denomination may be, all mainstream churches whether Cathilic, Orthodox or Protestant think alike that these are cults and sects even if they call themselves christians) or (2) those churches that make it a mission to convert non-Christians to Christianity so if someone new came to their church having a face and/or color of skin and/or name that may leave doubt if they are Christians then they would be even more heartily pounced upon by the church members in effusive and multiple welcomes than someone new who they may think is already a Christian. I think there's a kind of racism there if people think that those from Eastern Europe or the Third World are not as devout Christians as themselves and somehow they have to be converted to their view of Christianity. I know Chinese friends who feel very offended when the churches they go to seem to visibly target them with these effusive welcomes as if looking at them as potential converts. Maybe they dont have official churches in China but they certainly meet in friends' houses for prayer meetings and read and study the Bible just as well, maybe even better, than those in Western Europe.

Also like I wrote to David some people come to a new church simply to join the service and pray and reflect on God and to talk to Jesus and they would be very uncomfortable if people never stopped popping up to say 'Welcome' and asking questions and chit-chatting when all they want is to communicate with God on their own. Imagine a scene where someone comes in for the first time wanting to join a service and then perhapos pray quietly but all the while friendly faces keep interrupting with a welcoming 'Hello' (that is repeated with each person coming up) and asking all sorts of questions like 'Where are you from?' (the sub-text generally being 'Are you a Christian?') or offers of tea!!

In Catholic, Orthodox and many Protestant churches too they dont jump on you in 'welcome' at the door as you come in
except someone may be there to hand you the hymn book and bulletin and just smile and say 'Hello' or 'Good Morning'... but after the service then either the priest or minister waits at the door as you leave to shake hands and have a few words with each person and you join him and the rest of the congregation for a cup of tea or coffee and
they will all talk to you there. That's a different type of welcome but its still just as effective and maybe even more so than having to walk the gauntlet of an effusive Wecoming Committee. I think St Silas has got the welcome just right but that's my opinion.

I hope you accept my apology and look forward to meeting you in person.

God's blessings,
Rebecca

Simon Varwell

No need to apologise! And thanks for reminding me of the JWs and Mormons... maybe I should mystery-shop them too :)

Rebecca

Hi Simon,
Yes I think its an excellent idea to mystery-shop some of the cults and sects as well as the mainstream churches.

One point I would like to point out that I forgot in my last letter is that sometimes there may be absolutely no welcome or welcomers but that doesnt mean that church is unfriendly but simply very traditional as happens in some (though not all!) churches particularly Catholic or Orthodox and you may not meet anyone at the door and simply have to pick up the hymn book and bulletin yourself as you go in and it will be only in the end after the service that you will have the priest at the door to meet you and sometimes there may not be tea or coffee afterwards but it doesnt mean they are unfriendly. Its just the way the church looks at its function as mostly a place of prayer and reflection. So its good not to bracket all churches with the same expectations of welcome.

Meanwhile here is something both you and David will be interested to read. I found a review by The Mystery Worshipper of the Findlay Memorial Church and maybe you and I who like visiting various churches could actually sign in to give reviews officially as The Mystery Worshipper ourselves.

Here is how to become The Mystery Worshipper:
http://ship-of-fools.com/Mystery/become.html

Here is a review by The Mystery Worshipper of the Findlay Memorial Church:
http://ship-of-fools.com/Mystery/2005/918.html

God's blessings,
rebecca

Lori

David - after reading this, I just wanted to say thank you for introducing yourself to us and being genuinely interested in us when we came to the Ash Wednesday service. You really made us feel welcomed. We look forward to visiting again.

In response, though, to the conversation above, upon our first visit, we were not realy spoken too either. We walked in and the welcome team said hello, but that was all. A girl who knew my husband came up and talked to us after, but aside from that, we did feel a bit overlooked, I suppose you could say. Now, we did not want or expect a huge welcoming ordeal, like big hugs and over-the-top greetings and a banner with our names on it, but I think we did maybe expect someone to approach us and ask if this was our first time and so forth. I don't think it would be aggressive or JW/Mormon-like at all to greet visitors with a bit more enthusiasm. I'm not criticising the Welcome Team at all, because they can't obviously catch every single person who walks in the door and make conversation, but as it doesn't seem to be just us who have felt overlooked, I think David has a point in bringing all this up.

The church of God, being a family, ought to feel like such. A person who left the building crying because no one talked to her shouldn't be criticised. We don't know what kind of state she was in when she entered - maybe she needed the family of God more than anything in the world that night and didn't receive the love she needed. It's not necessarily anyone's fault for missing someone on one occasion who needed support, but if it is a continual issue, then it does become a fault.

As for the visitor taking the initiative to talk to the regulars, I kinda think that's a cop-out. Who actually feels comfortable doing that? Few people have that ability to enter a strange, foreign place and initiate relationships. We talked about this that night, actually, that we could've made the effort ourselves to introduce ourselves to the people sitting near us, but neither of us could have really done that! We don't have that much exuding confidence to assume that random people desperately want to know us.

Anyway, this is in no way a criticism of the church. We liked it a lot. We plan on visiting again. But I just wanted to address some of the things being said here, based on my personal experience, for what it's worth.

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