All Are Welcome

St Michael’s Vicarage
Alnwick

Dear People of Alnwick,

What a wonderful event our Flower Festival proved to be!

St. Michael’s looked absolutely splendid with over forty amazing displays beautifully arranged by a band of incredibly talented floral artists – and all based on the theme of ‘Leisure’.

There was a constant stream of visitors through the doors and lots of them left highly complimentary comments in the visitors’ book, not only about the floral art and the beauty of the building – but many more about the warmth of the welcome and the quality of the hospitality they had received.

Welcome and hospitality lie at the very heart of our Christian presence and witness – and, in a church like St. Michael’s, where there is hardly a Sunday in the year when we are without visitors at our worship, it is vital that we remain constantly aware of our need to excel in this department.

In my experience, it is often when being with a group of like-minded folk who all know each other well that the newcomer or the passer-by can feel most isolated. Churches can particularly fall into the trap of celebrating what a welcoming group of people they are without realising that they confine that welcome to those they already know.

Of course, some people are naturally shy and particularly reticent at making conversation with folk they don’t know but, in church, we all, friend and stranger alike, start from a common understanding of the love we have recognised in God through Christ – the Christ who reminds us that in welcoming the stranger we are welcoming him (see Matthew 25: 34-40).

So, as we give ourselves a pat on the back for the affirming nature of many of the comments in our visitors’ book, let us not rest on our laurels for too long but, rather, keep up the good work so that in our town and locality, as well as in all the places to which our visitors return, St. Michael’s may continue to cultivate the reputation of having welcome and hospitality as an ongoing priority in our corporate ministry.

Perhaps the words of a hymn we’re just beginning to get to know might help:

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

With every blessing,

Paul.

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