Sunday, March 6, 2016

Welcoming the stranger

Wikimedia Commons photo by Mr. Harman

Joyce Sasse, Spiritual Gleanings

The Widow Jacobs was most upset, Professor Carl Dudley recounted in one of his rural ministry workshops, because strangers were sitting in the pew where she and her husband had sat for the past seventeen years.

As happens in so many cases, from the time of his last stroke until now, she never got to church – though she was thankful for the support of so many of its members.

Now, three weeks after the funeral, she was looking forward to getting back but found someone else sitting in her place, their place … and with wiggly, fussy kids besides! It was devastating.

At first chance the following week, she phoned the minister and conveyed her displeasure. He was a sensitive listener who gave her space to vent her frustration. He then asked her to share memories of times she particularly remembered sitting there with her husband.

The minister understood. He also knew something about the new family and their feelings of isolation, for they had left their families and entered a community where they knew no one.

“Would you mind if, next Sunday, I introduced you so you can tell them what you told me?”

It was obvious from the way the two women started to chat that Sunday that this was going to be a happy relationship. Not only did they share the pew from then on, but the new family needed a local senior with whom they could relate. And they certainly filled some of the emptiness that plagued Mrs. Jacobs.

Whether it be the new family in the neighbourhood, the new teacher at school, or the newest member married into the family, each is appreciative of a welcoming word and an invitation to become part of the community. Rural communities can be welcoming places.

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