Welcome the Stranger
To those in search of a savior, for those looking for a church home, United Methodist Women are called to welcome the stranger not just once but until they are no longer a stranger. To steal from a favorite movie: “Without hope or agenda, just because it’s Christmas (and at Christmas you tell the truth)—to me, you are perfect.” (I know Christmas is next month, but it fit the sentiment.) I have my own update to this quote: Without hope or agenda, just because I am a Christian (and Christians love unconditionally)—to me, you are perfect.
I am a member of the largest church I have ever attended. When I moved to Indianapolis and started looking for a church, I visited two. I chose the church where I was the welcomed stranger. I searched out United Methodist Women to find my niche in a big church. I found my pew, and even a pew friend or two, to sit with every Sunday. I created my home at North Church Indy. Once the stranger, I am now a member and leader within the church.
Each year we receive a Duke Divinity School intern for the summer to work with our pastoral staff. This summer, I introduced myself to our intern right away to set up a dinner for two reasons: I am the board chair, and because I am a United Methodist Women member. I purposely checked in with her every week. It took time for both of us to grow in understanding of each other. It is my hope that by being intentional in who I am as a United Methodist Women member, when Leandra, our intern, visits another church, she knows she can search out United Methodist Women to be welcomed in Christ’s name as a child of God.
Leandra was surprised to learn I was the president of the national United Methodist Women. Her only experience was with women much more seasoned than me. She may not be the only young person in our congregations who does not understand what United Methodist Women offers and the role we must play in church growth and development. We are called in our own churches to welcome the stranger, the young people who do not know United Methodist Women.
We are part of a global church. United Methodist Women has always welcomed the stranger through mission and giving. We are also part of the local church, where we see the stranger every day. The stranger may be the new mom attending church for her child to attend Sunday school. The stranger may be the retired teacher, a longtime member of the church, who loves to read. Invite the stranger to the amazing United Methodist Women’s Reading Program. The stranger may be that student home from her first semester at college who wants to talk with someone other than her parents about the challenges of independence. Are there opportunities for you to welcome the stranger in your church? Make them!
Everyone who passes through your life started as a stranger. Find the “strangers” in your own church and invite them in. Open your heart to listen for God’s calling to recognize the strangers in your church.
This season of thankfulness, grow in your faith by welcoming the stranger. She is closer than you think. She may even be a familiar face who just wants to be invited.