From a sermon preached by Father Kelvin Holdsworth at St. Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, Pentecost 2012:
Many of you will be aware that I’ve recently been on holiday and that this is my first Sunday back following several away relaxing by the Mediterranean. I enjoyed reading and chilling-out by the pool. In all my prayers and devotions each evening, I prayed that the Good Lord would transpose the sublime sunshine from the Med up here to Glasgow.
And lo! See the power of prayer.
I promise you, it is going to be like this until the Lord returns. Or until Tuesday, depending on which comes sooner.
Anyway, last Sunday I was making my way home. My travel arrangements meant that last Sunday morning I was travelling through one of the great European capitals and of course, I went to church.
Now, I’d done my homework. I knew where to go. Somewhere that was a bit of a treat. Swanky. Musical. Stylish.
And I went to the service and quite enjoyed it.
As I was sitting listening to the music, my eye was caught by an invitation on the service sheet. If you are new or visiting, it said, please come to the welcome desk for a badge. Then, when you go into coffee after the service, people will know to speak to you.
Well, it isn’t what I’m used to but I decided to give it a try.
I went up to the desk expecting to be given a discreet little gold star or round blue dot. But no. The sticky label was huge and blank and I was encouraged to write my name on it.
With my breast suitably covered in the largest sticky label north of the Alps, I went in to coffee.
It was clearly an articulate congregation. You can always tell. They had decaff. And lemon tea. They even had Darjeeling.
And I stood and waited.
Do you know how long it takes to start to feel awkward wearing the biggest sticky label west of the Great Wall of China?
I’ll tell you – about 6 seconds.
I stood and I waited.
I waited and I stood.
And you know, not a single person spoke to the stranger who now believed himself to be wearing the biggest sticky label in the whole wide world.
Once we raise expectations by our planning and schemes for growth and welcome – we had better deliver.
Father Kelvin emailed me to say that this sermon was partly inspired by the conversation we have has here about the lack of welcome in far too many churches.
Go read the rest of this excellent sermon, or even listen to it, at WHAT'S IN KELVIN'S HEAD.