Our annual beach vacation always includes a visit to what our family refers to as "Beach Church." "Beach Church" isn't actually church on the beach. In fact, it's a regular ELCA congregation much like ours with a sanctuary, Sunday School classrooms, playground and parking lot. It's located a few blocks from the beach on the main highway. The service, which takes place in their sanctuary, is much like ours. The only thing that is actually "beachy" about it is that we go when we are at the beach!
As we walked into the main doors, we were warmly welcomed by the greeter, much like I hope guests at Abiding Presence are welcomed. Once inside the sanctuary, we received several more smiles, hellos and welcomes as it was clear that we were not part of the normal crowd who gathered for their Saturday evening service. After the children's sermon, which the pastor added to the beginning of the service just for my two girls as they were the only kids there, we received a bag of microwaveable popcorn. "Thanks for popping by for worship," the kind woman who gave it to us whispered as we made our way back to our seats.
This popcorn made a HUGE impression on my four year old. In fact, she spent the rest of the service informing me she was hungry and not understanding why we wouldn't eat the not yet microwaved bag of popcorn during the sermon. We've been home a couple of weeks and Nadia still is talking about her "church popcorn," which we finally let her eat this week.
"Beach Church" made us feel welcome and part of their community in a way that has stuck with us. While we don't have popcorn at Abiding Presence, we do have candy bags. If you haven't seen them, check them out in the back of the sanctuary. They are a fun way for people to learn more about Abiding Presence.
Above all, smile at people. Say, "Hello!" Tell people you are glad that they are there, especially families with children. Trust me, as a mom I will tell you that getting out the door to church is rarely easy or fun! It take effort. It also takes an equal amount of effort to show up by yourself to church. So, if you see someone sitting alone, make a special point to go over and say hello and welcome to them, too.
You never know, it could be your smile or welcome that sticks with someone for weeks to come!