So we have begun our Everybody Welcome Course – with 50 of us turning up either to a session on a Tuesday night at St Barnabas’ or one on a Thursday morning at St Nicholas’.
I really enjoyed leading both sessions, because the best part was listening and watching the various tables discuss and express their views on the Churches in our Parish and the way that we were visible or invisible to the community around us and how we might move forward in expressing the gospel of Jesus Christ to those we come into contact with.
In today’s reading we see Peter, who last week we read had gone back to being a fisherman, realise his need to make Jesus Christ the centre of his life and in doing so was able to perform miracles. The Gospel, that we are saved because Jesus died for us and from that act of amazing love we should love others – is central to Peter and should be central to us – as we invite and interact with new people who are seeking or visiting.
From the sessions 3 things really struck me; your honesty in that we had lots of people we could invite to Church but lack the skills or the attractive services to invite them to, the challenges we face, such as 7000 non-church visitors to baptisms at St Nicholas’ in a year – yet they meet only 10 of the normal congregation; and finally, the great ideas you have of what to change. May the other sessions be as productive.
Do you believe in the transforming power Jesus can have for people’s lives? Paul’s life changed in the moment we read about in our Acts reading. So has Peter’s – a fortnight ago he was denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed, today he has answered “yes” three times to the question we are each asked by Jesus – “Do you love me?” John’s Gospel records Jesus’ final words to Peter: “Follow me” – Matthew tells us Jesus’ first words to Peter: “Follow me”.
As the new edition of the Parish Magazine (thank you Elizabeth!) makes clear the next month or so of our common life will have a significant focus on discerning what it will mean for us to follow Jesus as individuals and as a parish. This week the first sessions of the “Everybody Welcome” course will be held. If you want to come along, please do so – details here.
Whether or not you are able to take part in the sessions, it would be wonderful (and potentially transforming!) if the whole church community could be praying daily:
Heavenly Father, you have welcomed us into your kingdom and your heart’s desire is to draw every human being to yourself. Grant us clear eyes to see people as you see them, sensitive feet to stand in their shoes, and warm smiles to welcome them in your name. Give us such generous hearts that our church becomes a foretaste of heaven where every soul you send us finds a loving home in the community of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.