I want to paint a scenario: the church service is about a quarter of an hour in, you’ve had a hymn or two and some guests arrive to see the architecture or what it is like inside your church building.
What do we do?
Can we welcome them in to the church or do we say, please come back when we can take visitors…on Monday?
Well it may be that the doors may be closed already. They may not even be allowed to enter the church. Are we even prepared for guests?
We may appear not to be open. If there is someone still on the doors we could invite the guests to join us in the service despite their apparent tardiness. There isn’t even an alternative option available – well, that’s radical I suppose!
What if the person had a need? Someone needing a meal? I once took someone who was suffering with substance abuse, whilst waiting for an ambulance, to the doors of a church to be told “No, we are about to precess”.
At Cathedrals we often see visitors coming into the buildings whilst the services continue. Services start and conclude, allowing a spectacle to be present, and an ongoing invitation to all who enter. It may be that they have the space to allow people to roam whilst the congregation frequents the central area. How much space do visitors need?
What could we do to be more radical?
Are we prepared to welcome those who may not wish to join in with what we wish to do? We have nothing to hide, so what scares us? If we are to welcome people to what we do every Sunday, we may need to swing open those doors.
What will they do? Can they be allowed to walk around, watch what is going on? What if they make a noise? What just like small children? They may have to stay at a distance so we are not interrupted – is that right though?
Possibly we’d appreciate it they would conform to ‘our rules’.
I’m not sure people would interfere with the service. Then again, if someone made an argument with the sermon, at least they’d be engaging with the Biblical material.
It may not be immediately possible to allow visitors to freely enter our churches whilst we hold services but the questions this raises do need to be considered: especially restricting what people see of the church during the service might suggest one that is closed rather than open.
What could we do to allow greater visibility of our church services for those who are not usual attendees?