Yesterday felt like the fall, didn't it? Lots of new and returning college students, a crowded Courtyard and a buzz in the air. We wrapped up our Galatians series with message #24. What a great study. It was a communion Sunday, which also means a name tag Sunday, which reminded me of a recent dear Abby post that appeared in the Tribune last week.
Betty Cunningham handed this to me on Sunday. But Robbin Mote got it to me first and also shared her very honest thoughts on her blog. Here it is . . .
DEAR ABBY: I am writing about a change I have seen in church. I accept the loud guitar music and informal settings, although I do miss the traditional hymns and formal altars.What I cannot get used to is the forced "friendly" greeting and handshaking. I attend church to meditate and worship with my family. I do not go to shake hands with strangers and give them a greeting dictated by a pastor.
I like people. I am naturally caring, outgoing and friendly. However, I believe that a greeting or handshake should come from my own heart. I have mentioned this to friends and family from all faiths, ages and walks of life. None of them like this scheduled "greeting" either. Many say they head for the restroom at that time, turn their backs or just shake hands with the people they came with, come to church late to avoid it, or don't come at all. Others feel the practice is unsanitary. I suggest that church leaders take an anonymous poll and ask how many in their congregations agree with me. What do you think, Abby? -- MINISTER'S DAUGHTER, CAYUCOS, CALIF.
DEAR DAUGHTER: Thank you for asking my opinion. Here it is: Something is wrong in our fragmented society if, for one moment in a house of God, people cannot find it in their hearts to reach out and make sure that everyone feels included and welcome. And for those who fear it is unsanitary -- bring small bottles of hand sanitizer. Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
It's a crack-up that it's from a minister's daughter in Cayucos. Do you feel like this about the greeting time at Grace? I loved Abby's straight-up response. Obviously, the greeting time in church is not the "end-all, be-all," but it's intended to be a small way to break the ice and extend a welcome. Personally, I need to be reminded that I have to come to worship with others, not alone. We together are part of the "communion of saints" throughout the ages, brothers and sisters in Christ, the family of God. Seems to me, we've got to do all we can to keep embracing and experiencing that.
I think those of us who have been around for awhile forget what it's like to walk into an unfamiliar church for the first time. It can be a very uncomfortable experience. A smile, a welcome, a good morning, the touch of a handshake can go a long way in putting someone at ease. Don't underestimate the power of that time.