When it comes to church, I’m a wanderer: I don’t have a church home so much as a village of church tents. All this wandering has made me a connoisseur of church welcomes or the lack thereof. I can tell you where I did or didn’t feel welcome—though I can’t always say why.
I am beginning to get a clue, however, from my work as a hospital chaplain. Like churches, chaplains try to create a welcome for people. Unlike churches, we don’t really have a place to welcome people to. This isn’t just because no one wants to be welcomed into the hospital. Often we are trying to create a welcome outside whatever mess people find themselves inside. We welcome out: we go out of our comfort zones so we can meet people where they are, in their discomfort zones.
I had a really hard time with this at first. I put this down to being an introvert—despite all the great press we’ve been getting lately, it is still the case that meeting new people exhausts our energy reserves. So a job where I meet new people over and over every day—and I don’t get to keep the old ones!—is kind of a special hell. (“Good,” my supervisor said. “You can relate to people in the hospital. They are all in their own special hell.”)
How, I wondered, do I create a welcome when we are all in the wilderness?
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