One thing that a conference-goer must bear, at least at ministry conferences, is the "now, let's stand and find someone you don't know, and ________________ them" activity. At Fashion Me a People, the conf. I attended last week on lifelong faith formation, we hugged each other, named ourselves after countries and found each other, shared our stories with each other, and made the sign of the cross on each other's forehead. I am not a fan of this activity, the find and ________ activity, but I have to admit that every once in a while, some neat nugget comes up.
This time around, I heard a great idea about teaching the concept of Welcome, as part of the Mass (that's the first part, if you're taking notes). Here's what she did. (it's okay, I told her I'd be stealing it, and she said "Do!")
She sent the kids out of the church, and told the parents the plan. She said "when the kids come back in, we're going to welcome them like they've never been welcomed before. Big round of applause! Open arms! Cheers and smiles!" They sang the first verse of "Gather Us In" and then, during the next (instrumental) verse, the doors were opened, and the kids came in to their wonderful welcome. Now here's the kicker: she told them, "this is how God feels about you coming to Mass every week! It's supposed to feel this good, and you're supposed to feel this welcomed, at every Mass. And it is our responsibility to make other people feel this welcome when they enter our doors."
How cool is that?? Imagine a place that celebrates your attendance at Mass. At my first parish there were stories about a former pastor who would call people if they didn't show up at Mass, in order to make them cower their way back the next week. In contrast, my Mom told me recently that Dad dropped her off at the door and went to park a few weeks ago, and when she walked in the narthex alone, people asked her if everything was okay- they noticed Dad's absence, and asked out of concern. She felt welcomed. Makes me want to work hard to make Mass at my parish a place of welcome and hospitality.