Do you remember the first day at a new school or the start of a new school year and the fear of finding people to sit with at lunch? Do you remember the first day at a new job and wondering who you would meet and whether they’d include you? We all want to be included and welcomed. God designed us for community and when we find community, we feel safe, included, and welcomed. In community, our souls seem to flourish.
After one Sunday at Vista Ridge UMC, I want to let you know that my full family feels safe, included, and welcomed. My family has felt fully embraced by this community and for that, I want to say, “Thank you.”
When I walked into the church on Sunday morning, I was feeling a range of emotions: excitement, nervousness, a sense of the unknown. I then noticed a sign on my office door that said, “Welcome Pastor Clay.” This sign, clearly created by children, had pictures of mountains, camping, my former church, chocolate, and many other things I loved. It wasn’t a generic welcome sign, but it was made specifically for me.
The morning continued and with each genuine handshake and smile, I felt more at home. Perhaps more importantly, throughout the morning, church member after church member made my wife and children feel welcomed.
We were gifted with a welcome bag that was not only full of VRUMC swag, but also personalized gifts, such as spaghetti noodles (for my favorite meal), brownie mix (for my sweet tooth), bug spray (for our outdoor camping adventures) and so on. Once again, this wasn’t a generic welcome bag, but a personalized one that was made with me in mind. When I arrived on Monday, a mug was sitting on my desk, personalized with my favorite Bible verse. On top of all of this, I have read all of your welcome cards. They are so heartfelt and bring my soul a sense of joy.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I so appreciate your hospitality and the way you have welcomed my family and me. I look forward to joining in your hospitality as we welcome more and more people into our church. My prayer is that we as a church can continue to find ways to welcome the stranger and make those who walk into our church feeling nervous or like an outsider feel safe, included, and welcomed. May our hospitality continue to create a sense of community and allow all souls to flourish.