TLDR: The invite committee seeks to use our gift of hospitality in order for us to share Christ with others in their walk with God so that community members can see that St. Dunstan’s could be a home for them as well.
There has been a great deal of talk about inviting. The ministry of Invite, Welcome, Connect is three parts and is all about evangelism. St. Dunstan’s has done an excellent job of making evangelism part of our culture rather than a dirty word. As Episcopalians, we believe in a communal faith, one where each person influences each other’s belief in God. At the Easter Vigil there was a baptism. At that baptism, I as a priest made the same promise each of you made to “do all in your power to support this person in her life in Christ.”1 Then, we joined together with those committing themselves to Christ throughout the world, and renewed our baptismal covenant. If the Episcopal Church wanted an additional slogan, I would suggest, “we are better together.”
This poses an interesting take on evangelism. We are better together, however, we do not believe, that it is only about our individual faith. Of course, accepting that Jesus is the risen Lord is part of our being Christian, and also it means that our faith is interdependent. It is why the liturgy is essential to who we are; we are strengthened by the prayers, songs, scripture, and sermons. We are better with each new member and at the same time never want to lose a member, because we lose a part of our Christian communal selves.
As such, years ago, Invite, Welcome, Connect, was created in order to give voice to who we are as Episcopalians and how we can help share our faith. The first part of this ministry is invite. A few months ago, Fr. Roman had a training where he showed how to invite people to church, because that can be an awkward process. With anxiety ridden questions such as: How do you talk about a taboo subject? What if someone is offended? What if they decline the invitation?
The first step is to be thoughtful. If you just shared a church experience, or going to church, invite someone for the next event - we have services every Sunday (and Thursday). The next step is to not be too pushy. I have to be careful with this one, because I love the church so much, however, the key is to never shame someone into a church situation. People have many experiences of God and Church. We want to help them feel comfortable in their spiritual journey.
The invite committee began by making “Moo Cards” essentially, business cards that link to the website. Friends, I showed these to one of my close confidants who happens to be in technology, and they were impressed! These are easy ways to show people a snapshot of our church. We are people who love to serve others (including animals), who learn from the youngest age, who take communion, and so much more. This tool makes it easier to invite someone, it gives you a prop.
Next, the invite committee began creating events for the larger community. Our first event is coming up: Holy Smokes and it promises to be a very fun event! By clicking on the link you can find out all about our day. Here is a summary it is on April 30 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. in the parking lot. We will have 13 teams with enough food cooked outside in sample sizes (4 oz) for 150 guests. We even have a chuck-wagon! The categories include: chicken, beef, pork, and whatever else goes on the grill. We will have a bouncy house! The playground is open (yes, I plan to play on the play structure and in the bouncy house - if Sarah will let me). The fall will bring us to a new event with new opportunities to invite people.
Every event at St. Dunstan’s is an opportunity for hospitality. We are being more thoughtful about the process. The Welcome and Connect Committees will form soon and we will talk more about how we ensure everyone past, present, and future members feel welcomed here at St. Dunstan’s, and how everyone has the opportunity to connect to a ministry. The Long and the short of the message is that we are a people who are called to unite others to God in Christ. Amen.
1 Book of Common Prayer pp.299-311