Week Four: Reaching Out to Neighbors
Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer
I heard the story of a curate who took bags of goodies, along with the church schedule during Advent, to the houses in the neighborhood surrounding her church. The neighborhood had shifted a bit over the years and not many of the church members lived nearby. She believed this gesture to be a good step toward evangelism. When she mentioned this to her rector, she hit a wall. The rector was suspicious and non-committal. “That’s a lot of work,” the rector said. Although this was not the reception the curate expected, she proceeded with her plan anyway.
When the time came for delivering the bags of goodies, (toasted pecans) about 20 families showed up to help. This number was more than she had hoped for or expected. They not only delivered the church schedule and goody bag but also took time to speak with those who opened their door. For those neighbors who did not answer the door, they left a bag with a note from the church saying that they hoped the dweller might visit come and visit sometime. What transpired was another surprise.
On the first Sunday of Advent, there were about 30 residents from the neighborhood sitting in the pews. Though many of the visitors had no idea what was taking place in the Episcopal Church, they did make the effort to visit. Throughout Advent the neighborhood participation was amazing.
I often think of this moment in the life of the curate. She had a vision and, even though her boss wasn’t supportive, she followed through with her vision. The result of hospitality was evident. Unfortunately, when the curate left so did the enthusiasm.
How is your church reaching out to the neighbors? Do they know a worshiping community is inside the four walls? I wonder what would happen if you walked the streets and visited with your neighbors?
The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson, Jr.
Bishop of Louisiana
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