One of the great things about serving a large parish is that we have lots of outside user groups that rent our space. This means we have a lot of people who are not 'parishioners' coming through our doors, and getting to know a little bit about who we are and what we do.
This week that came home - one of the members of a user group called this week to ask for prayer, and they knew that we were "a place where prayer happens."
What a great reputation to have!
In a world that can be cynical of all things religious, we are given opportunity after opportunity to demonstrate who and who's we are. We can show the world that we are a church: a joy-filled, Christ-following collection of imperfect souls, who congregate for the purpose of receiving the undeserved and unreserved grace of God and asking for inspiration from the Holy Spirit to find meaningful ways to engage in our community through service. We can break down the myths that churchy people are holier-than-thou, or have it all together, or are all living the charmed life.
But we have to be intentional about how we present ourselves to the world, if we are to have a reputation as a household of God: we must be aware of what is being overheard when we speak, what is being perceived when we act, what is being portrayed when we represent as "church" within the broader community.
A reputation will exist; we can choose what it is. So let us all, as church, be welcoming and friendly and Spirit-led and Christ-focused. Let us learn from our past, celebrate our present, and plan carefully for the future. Let us embrace everyone we encounter - whether they're in our doors for worship, or exercise, or haven't been through our doors for years (if ever!). Let us be known as a people doing their best to love and serve God, in a place where prayer happens, that is inviting to all who would come.