Thought for the Week: ‘Churches must be places of welcome, acceptance and inclusivity’

Rev Dr William MortonRev Dr William Morton
Rev Dr William Morton
​A church which is not welcoming and accepting of all who cross its threshold may as well close its doors. These were the words spoken to me early on in my ministry by an elderly clergyman, Archdeacon Charles Willoughby, who had been ordained for more than 60 years, and now a long time in the "Father’s House."

​They are words which I have often thought about and which convince me more and more of their truth.

tI is remarkable, but these words are very much in my mind in respect of current gospel readings There is the reading, from St John chapter 1, which tells the story of when Andrew and Simon Peter, two of our Lord’s disciples, followed Jesus on hearing John the Baptist exclaim of Him: “’Look, here is the Lamb of God".

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On asking Jesus: “Where are you staying?”, Jesus said to them: “Come and see.”

In the reading from St Matthew 4 12-23, in the context again of the call of the first disciples, Jesus invites Simon Peter and Andrew, and later James and John, to leave their work as fishermen, and to become His disciples. “Come with me,” says Jesus.

Jesus’ invitation to "Come and See" was a hallmark of His ministry as He welcomed everyone He encountered, even the most unlikely people – tax collectors, sinners, as He touched lepers, and even those who had died.

Welcome, openness and acceptance, and the sharing of hospitality, characterised His ministry. He conflicted with the social standards of His day by eating with tax collectors and sinners. He received Pharisees and sinners alike – and often His sharpest criticism was reserved for the former.

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He was welcoming and accepting of all who crossed His threshold. Jesus’ challenge to us is to open our hearts to Him and to others, to respond to His invitation - come and see’, and then in turn to extend that invitation.

His challenge is directed at our churches especially which should always emulate the example of Jesus in being places of welcome, openness, friendship, tolerance, acceptance, and inclusivity.

In a world where suspicion of others can be almost epidemic, the church, by contrast, must always provide that open door, extend a welcome, and recognise the value of the human being, made in the image of God. The Church’s invitation should always be, simply, "Come and See". By issuing this invitation an open door is created, a welcome is extended, a new relationship provided, one where we may find ourselves changed by God who meets us in unexpected people, and finds us in unexpected places."Come and See". Jesus calls us to follow Him.

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