I was singing in a choir at the weekend, and again witnessed the celebrant offer a warm welcome and invite everyone to come forward for at least a blessing. The congregation was a usual mix of the churched and the non-churched and as usual, the same as happens at my church, virtually no-one from the non-regular part of the congregation came up for even a blessing.
I have been reflecting on this and how it made me feel, and how it always makes me feel. I know it will happen at the All Souls Requiem, and it will make me feel failed.
My reflection is that it is a little like when you offer someone a hand to shake and they turn their nose up at it: a rejection. I try so hard to make the welcome genuine, to emphasise that there are no barriers to this altar:
“Come and Receive
all are welcome at this altar”
says the slide on screen, but I reckon most of these punters have already made up their mind not to engage before they arrived at the church. I am reminded of my parish placement in Newcastle when an Ordinand as I watched a baptism and the absolute determination of the be-tattooed to and be-miniskirted to avoid participating in the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer. To engage with the Church is to show a weakness, and we never show weakness do we?
I will not back down from my welcome. I will try and find new ways of expressing that hospitality which is at the heart of faith. I will continue to believe fervently that the sacrament is there to heal and to reconcile, and whether it blesses, or it is communed, it will not matter, for Christ was present amongst them all, faithful and unfaithful alike.
I just wish that more would take me up on my proferred hand and be blessed at least.