- Sundays 2pm-4pm: St Cuthbert’s Haydon Bridge and All Hallows’ Henshaw
- Wednesday 2pm-4pm: St Cuthbert’s Haydon Bridge
- Thursdays 10am-12noon: All Hallows’ Henshaw
Public Worship: Government regulations will allow us to return for public worship in our Churches in the coming weeks. I will be working with the Church Wardens and PCC to ensure that we have a robust and safe policy in place. We will have an update on this for next Sunday. Please be reassured that the safety of all who use our Church buildings is paramount in this planning.
Online worship: The reflection was used as part of our weekly Sunday service of Morning Prayer which you can view on our Facebook page or on the video below. We continue to say Morning Prayer at 9am and Evening Prayer at 6pm every day on our Facebook page.
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.
Last week was my first week acting as an Assistant Archdeacon alongside my other commitments to these Parishes. This has consisted, at least initially, in me being in several more weekly “Zoom” meetings supporting the life of deaneries and the diocese. As you can imagine the vast majority of our conversations at present revolve around the the changing regulations on what we can and can’t do as we come out of lock-down. Last week we reopened out churches for public prayer and in coming weeks we will be in a position to reopen for public worship.
A few weeks ago the Church Wardens and I worked through the policy that is now in place to allow us to open for supervised private prayer. In drafting that policy it was important for us to see the person volunteering to be in church through these times we are open not as a “steward” or “marshal” but as a “welcomer”. Their task is to ensure that our churches are not just safe and complying with the current regulations, but that our churches are places of welcome for those who, at the moment, need the space and solace that churches allow for private prayer.
As we move towards reopening for public worship in the coming weeks this will again be a strange process. Our worship won’t feel initially as we might remember or hope it to be. We will have to follow regulations and have in place policies. But our abiding question should remain the same as it did as we began to reopen for private prayer: how can we welcome people?
As we wade through the regulations this will be the question that we return to. If we are restricted to the numbers we can have in church, how do we extend a welcome to those who we cannot accommodate at a service? If a family or individual from outside our usual worshipping community, who have not received all the relevant information needed, just want to come to worship for whatever reason, how do we make them feel welcome? And how do we extend a welcome to those who for personal or practical reasons feel unable to come to church for worship at this time?
As we reflect on this question our Gospel reading today is, if you will excuse the pun, particularly welcome! In this reading Jesus challenges us to reflect on what it is that we do when we welcome others into our midst. The first thing for us to remember is the wider context of this teaching. This short passage on welcome comes at the end of Jesus’ longer commissioning of the first disciples. Welcome, in this context, is part of mission. When we welcome we are not just being polite or nice, we are doing the work of mission. The experience people receive in the first few moments they arrive in church will colour much of how they respond to what follows. Good welcome is then central to the flourishing mission of the church, just as the opposite is true.
The second theme Jesus invites us to reflect on is that as we welcome others, we do not simply welcome them as individuals. As we welcome others, we welcome the one who sent them, we welcome Jesus into our midst. In the Letter to the Hebrews we hear this theme again as the author reflects on the strange scene in Genesis 18 where Abraham and Sarah welcome three strangers who discover to be Angels. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” we are reminded, “for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” To welcome someone is to welcome one made and formed in the image of God. As we welcome others we should welcome them as if we are welcoming Jesus into our midst. As St Benedict says in his Monastic Rule: “All who arrive as guests are to be welcomed like Christ, for he is going to say, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’.”
As we move towards reopening for worship it would be tempting to get caught up in the processes and protocols that we need to wade through to ensure that we are safe and responsible in our opening up. But before that vital task we need to take this as an opportunity to reflect more deeply on what it means for us to welcome those called into God’s presence for worship and community. In our reading Jesus reminds us that as we welcome others we are responding to their most basic need, to their thirst to be with God and with others:
As we move into this extended period of reopening we need to remember that this will not be a quick or smooth process. We will take missteps, we will miss things out. For some we will go too fast, for others it will be too slow. But whatever our practical processes look like we need to not lose sight of our call to be a community of welcome. That will mean that we will have to be flexible about how and when we offer public worship. If more people than we can safely accommodate want to be in church, then we will put on additional services. If some people still feel unable or uncertain about physically coming to church, then church will continue to come to them online or in our weekly mailings.
We are entering a time which will be for some exciting and a relief. For others they will be fearful and uncertain. As a church and community of faith we need to respond to all the need we encounter in the spirit of welcome knowing that as we do so we welcome not only those who will come, but Jesus, and the one who sent him.
Questions for Reflection through the week
- What special things do you do to make people feel welcome?
- What things do we do in Church to make people feel welcome?
- What else could we do to make more people feel welcome as we prepare to return to our Churches for public worship?
Collect for Third Sunday of Trinity
God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Please keep in your prayers: Lesley, Archie, Dorothy, Sheila, Margaret, Carolyn, Allan, Mandy & Laura & Matthew.