Welcome to the First Baptist Church of Christ.
“Welcome” has become a contentious word in the church. Perhaps it’s always been. Like the word “all,” it can mean different things to different people. Used without care, it can lead to confusion and pain, or even worse, give cover to a posture that few would consider “welcoming.” Yet when time is taken to explore its depths and discern precisely what it means and what is at stake, “welcome” can be among the most powerful words we have at our disposal in the church.
It’s in this deeper sense that I extend “welcome” to you from the First Baptist Church of Christ.
Welcome is something we take very seriously here. It’s something we’ve talked a lot about: the extent of it; who it includes and how. We’ve had conversations around tables about it. We’ve prayed about it and read scripture about it. We’ve even made decisions and crafted statements together about it. In August of 2017, our congregation voted to “support the full inclusion in the life of the church of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” We’ve made commitments that we continue to live into together.
And so I can tell you that the welcome I extend to you is not a formality, but comes with great care. It’s offered with humility and love. Whoever you are, wherever you have come from, however you have found yourself here, and wherever the Spirit may lead you once we depart, know that you are welcome in this place, fully and completely, without reservation. If you have ever felt unwelcome or excluded from church for any reason, I want you to know in particular you are welcome here.
And know as I say these things that the welcome I extend to you is not my own, our even of this church, but of Christ. As our peculiar title reminds us, this is Christ’s church and we are but stewards of it. We certainly don’t have all the answers yet as to where Christ will lead us and to whom, but we’ve committed ourselves to learning together all that these convictions demand of us.
But we could use some help. Your help. Better yet, we could use the Spirit of God moving through you, and we’re bold enough to wonder if you could use the Spirit of God moving through us. Or better still, we believe God might use us all together to reveal something of the Reign of God scripture tells us is breaking loose in the world even now. That is, to reveal what it means to be the church.
But for now, welcome.