Several weeks ago we announced that we would try an experiment – Nametag Sunday. It is a pilot project that has arisen out of an ongoing conversation around what it means to be a committed parish of the faithful. Among all the studies and from surveys of Catholics across this nation – one thing that is clear: a parish must be welcoming.
Over the past year when we ask groups of people, especially new parishioners, all report “feeling the parish is a welcoming place.” Sometimes when we scratch the surface of that answer, we discover that it means the Friars are out in front of the church after Mass and are approachable. And that is a good thing. But it does not necessarily translate into the person making a connection to other parishioners or ministries. Every once in a while I am surprised to find out two people who I see at the same weekend Mass every weekend for the last seven years – and I assume know one another – in fact, do not. They might wave and exchange greetings, but have been “strangers in the same pew” for a long time. Hence our experiment.
And so it was interesting to read a blog post from David Lose, a Lutheran pastor and theologian (…In the Meantime). I will let Pastor David take it from here:
Whole Foods and the Art of Practiced Hospitality
We tend to do a fair amount of our grocery shopping at Whole Foods. (Yes, I know the jokes about “whole paycheck,” but we’re loyal.) One of the things I’ve noticed about shopping there is that whenever I can’t find something and ask for help, the employee I ask stops whatever he or she is doing to take me to the item I’m looking for. And this happens even when I say that I can find it on my own if they just tell me the aisle. But they insist. Actually, they don’t insist or make a big deal of it. They just take me there.
It’s clear this isn’t by accident, as this happens every single time. (And, yes, I seem to have a hard time finding things; one more reason not to take up golfing!). Just like when I am checking out, the cashier asks me if I was able to find what I was looking for. Every single time.
This is what I would call “practiced hospitality.” And it works. I feel good about my shopping experience and actually look forward to coming back.
I’ve wondered at times what the Sunday morning experience would be like for visitors to worship if the folks in our congregations were trained to go out of their way to be welcoming and helpful. To ask if they need help, to greet them and invite them to sit with them, to ask if they have any questions.
Yes, there is the fear of asking a long-time member if he or she is a first-time visitor, I get that. But I think if I were that long-term member, I’d still be grateful for the hospitable gesture and – guess what? – we’d know each other better after that.
Practiced hospitality. I don’t know if Whole Foods calls it that. But I like the sound of it. And I’d like it even better if I saw it practiced in our congregations as well.