Open doors at Main Street UMC

Published 9:06 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

One place you might expect everyone to be welcome would be in church. Christians, who all stand before God as sinners saved by grace, have no theological ground for considering themselves superior to anyone else — black or white, rich or poor, saved or unsaved.

Sadly, what ought to be is not always what is. Not that long ago, there was an adage — Sunday is the most segregated day of the week — that referred to the propensity of houses of worship to be racially separated places. A black person visiting a white church, for example, might not have been run out of the service, but there was a good chance he wouldn’t be made to feel comfortable about returning the following week.

While such racial prejudice is fading in America, and more and more churches are boasting a broad mix of skin types and colors, finding a truly welcoming church still can be a daunting task. Most anyone who has moved to a new area and visited a variety of neighborhood churches can tell at least one story of entering the doors of a sanctuary on a Sunday morning, spending time in worship and then returning to his car without hearing so much as a “Thank you for coming” from the congregants.

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Whatever the reason for such a lack of hospitality, it’s clear that such a cool reception violates any number of biblical directives. If, as the apostle Paul wrote, hospitality is a fruit of the Spirit, then churches that don’t display the trait are in dire need of a Holy Spirit refill.

One area church that has taken the message of open doors to heart is Main Street United Methodist Church, which has been named an official “Welcoming Congregation” for the fourth year running by United Methodist Communications.

With official greeters, a mailing to new residents, a newcomers’ Sunday School class and a program designed to transition new families into the church, members of Main Street UMC’s congregation have made hospitality their personal concern.

In today’s era of declining church membership and increasing skepticism about the existence of God, much less his son Jesus Christ, it’s heartening to hear of the focus at Main Street UMC. Their godly example is one which all Christian churches, regardless of denomination, would be wise to follow.