Who’s a part of this table, and why we don’t pass a plate…
So, on a fairly regular basis I’ll be having coffee with someone who has come out and joined us at worship a few times, and they’ll rather apologetically tell me that although they like what we’re doing they really feel a strong commitment to their own home church community. The first couple of times this was said to me, I wasn’t entirely sure as to what was really being expressed, and then it gradually began to dawn on me: since these folks didn’t feel like they could “join” us permanently, they were more or less offering to give up their “visitor’s privileges.”
Okay, so we need to be clear on a few things here. For one thing, we don’t have anything like card-carrying membership at saint benedict’s table. We’re a part of the whole church – a local manifestation of the Body of Christ – such that if you’re with us in worship you’re one of us. You may well exercise your membership in the Body of Christ in another community on Sunday morning, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t express that with us on Sunday evening as well. In fact, we have a fair number of people – including people who are with us a couple of times a month – who would identify another church as their home church… making us something of their home away from home. Among these are people in positions of church leadership, who might find that on many a Sunday morning they’ve been so busy doing ministry that they never actually managed to worship. Sunday evenings at saint ben’s can provide that space.
In other words, you’re really only a visitor once. The first time you come to join us, everything seems a bit new. The second time, you pick up your menu, maybe pour a cup of coffee, and head for a pew, maybe even the same pew as on the first time. With no apologies, consider yourself a part of us.
Of course what this means is that on any given Sunday a fair percentage of people in worship might well be in the same space as you; I’d say that probably no more than 60% of the gathered community is made up of people for whom saint ben’s is their sole church home. If, after being with us a few times, you feel as if you don’t really know anyone, maybe you should just say hello to whoever it is sitting across from you. Chances are that they too come on an occasional basis, and have also been thinking that they don’t know anyone either.
It also means that if you were thinking of coming out to one of our other gatherings – ideaExchange at Aqua Books or Theology by the Glass, for instance – you’d be connecting with others for whom this might not be a primary church home. That is part of what makes things interesting.
And what about this business of not passing any collection plate? We do tend to run pretty close to the budget line, which is a pretty modest budget in the first place. Shouldn’t we be more actively looking for financial support? Well, we figure that people who are going to join us on a regular basis and who like what we’re doing will support us. They’ll find the offering basket on the table at the back of the church, and make their own decisions around stewardship. To pass a plate actually only impacts the giving of first time visitors and guests… not really the folks you should be looking at to help pay the bills.
Welcome to the table.