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I furtively looked around as I pulled into that “first time visitor” spot. As though I had just parked illegally in a handicap spot, or snagged the “expectant mother” space at the grocery store. I felt like someone was going to bust me at any moment and call me out as a fraud. But then I checked myself: I really was a first-time visitor to worship.
It was an alien experience for me.
Years - Ministry - City - Churches - Family
Coming from almost 20 years in pastoral ministry (wow, I just heard it), I’d moved to a new city and was legit visiting churches with my family. Having belonged to the same church the whole time I was growing up, and then always working at one church or another once I started seminary, it occurred to me: with a rare few exceptions, I had never been a visitor.
As I got out of my car (at my primo parking spot near the door) I felt like I was getting away with something. Then I recognized the irony: that I spent a whole lot of my time and energy in pastoral ministry trying to make churches “visitor friendly;” but have never really experienced what it is to be a guest.
Time - Visitor - People - Church - Part
Granted, even as a first time visitor, I knew people here. And this church was part of the denomination in which I am still ordained, and still hold actual employment. So I was not a total stranger in a strange land. Still. It was a weird feeling, walking into a church to which I did not own a key.
I was determined to be a good guest. And I thought deeply about what that means. Like, what do I tell my kids when they go to someone’s home? MANNERS. And, eat what’s served. Don’t make a mess. Things like that.
Those are pretty...
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