What’s in a welcome?

A 'Summer Sunday' at St. Peter's 2010

It’s now official who our new vicar is going to be (his name was published in the Church Times last Friday). So when I was reminded I ought to write something for one of the local magazines to publish in July, this is what I came up with:

We are about to welcome some new friends to Yateley. Although we’ve only known who they are for about three months, we’ve been anticipating their arrival for nearly a year! They’re special people, with particular talents, that we know are going to bring something new and exciting to Yateley. But at the same time, it will be something very traditional too, as they will be filling a role that has existed in Yateley for centuries.

Revd Andy Edmunds and his wife Ann are moving here from Derbyshire so that Andy can take up the role of being Vicar of St. Peter’s Yateley. They will be given a formal welcome at a special service at St. Peter’s on Thursday 14th July at 7.30pm, but what is much more important is the welcome that we all give to them and their family in the months to come.

When you greet someone new, in your workplace, your leisure club or your street, what do you do? Do you ask them about themselves, firing questions at them, so you can get an idea of whether you like them or not, and whether they’ve got anything to offer? Or do you tell them about yourself, the things that you like about where you are, and the possibilities that excite you about the future for yourself and the people you spend time with? Perhaps it’s a mixture of both – possibly shared over a drink or a meal!

When Jesus met people, he told them stories about himself and his Father God (often in the form of parables like that of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:1-14 ). Jesus also listened to people’s questions and patiently explained the new perspective he was bringing on old ideas; he also heard their needs and tried, simply and directly, to meet them (Matthew 9 has a whole selection of stories about what Jesus did).

It’s easy to think that this is the sort of behaviour we might expect or anticipate from a new vicar, but instead, it would be great to welcome him by doing these things ourselves: let’s tell him about our relationship with God (whatever it is), share with him our perspective on what Jesus might mean for the people of Yateley, and ask not what he and his wife can do for us, but what we can do for them!


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