This Sunday Ross Penner, pastor at the Vineland United Mennonite church, and I are trading places. It’s an opportunity for each of our congregations to hear a different voice. But there will still be a Pastor Penner in both pulpits!

When was the last time that you worshipped in a different church? I think that everyone should worship in a congregation that is not their own at least once a year. It gives you the opportunity to have that slightly uneasy feeling as you enter a church, not knowing where to go or who to talk to. It gives you the opportunity to not understand announcements that are made to the “in-group” that does not include you. It gives you the opportunity to feel like you are on the outside looking in. And, importantly, it gives you the opportunity to feel welcomed in that environment, and realize how significant a smile, a handshake or a question can be. You have the opportunity to experience one-ness because you are brothers and sisters in Christ, not because you are part of the same social network.

I still smile when I think about the face of someone I met in a church I was visiting once. I was walking into the foyer and he happened to be walking towards me. He looked at me and in a split second I could see that he did not know who I was and he was taken aback by that, and then his eyes just travelled right over me as if I was invisible, and he walked right on by me. It was not a big church. Hmmm. I know he wasn’t a newcomer like me because he had a “Welcomer” badge on his lapel!

How will we respond to newcomers to our church this Sunday?

This week’s prayer:  Jesus, help us to see you in the eyes of everyone who enters the doors of our church this Sunday.

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