Following this blog post you will find a draft statement called ‘Everyone is Welcome’. Over the last few years I have preached about the need to welcome everyone and show radical hospitality exemplified in Jesus’ ministry. I have begun each service with the statement that ‘whether you are a follower of Christ or on a spiritual journey, all are welcome to this sacred and holy space’. I want us to start to take real and practical steps to live out this sentiment. I want the community of Port Perry to know the principles of ‘welcome’ that are lived out at the Ascension.
We live in an increasingly pluralistic and multi-cultural society in the Diocese of Toronto. It is not unusual that I will hear my own teenage children asking me why the church still puts up barriers for certain groups? Our response may be that the Church does not have to replicate secular values and beliefs. To be sure that is true that not all secular values have a place in the Church. In many ways the Church is counter-cultural to values found in society as we emphasize the need for being a servant, loving thy neighbour, showing charity, and caring for the stranger. At the same time the rights and freedoms, values, and beliefs that are enshrined in law arise from the Judaeo-Christian values we learned as children. The fact is that Scripture and Christian traditions have shaped the society we live in. We should be proud of this heritage and not run away from it.
On the fifth Sunday of Easter we will read Acts 11:1-18. Peter is describing his great vision that the mission of the early Church was also for the Gentiles. Peter states, “If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in Jesus Christ, then who am I? Could I stand in God’s way?” My friends, whether it was intended or not, I think that the Church has done a lot of standing in the way of allowing the gospel message to be shared with all people. I think that this statement is one way for us to get out of the way and let Christ’s church be experienced equally and fully by all those that walk into its doors.
Finally, some made a very good point that if everyone is welcome do we need to list those communities which have been excluded? I think this is an important dialogue to have with one another. However, I think that there is a need to list these communities because they have been excluded and only they have felt the sting and pain caused by such exclusion.
The statement is as follows:
EVERYONE IS WELCOME
The Church of the Ascension is a place where God’s mercy, love, and grace is not only known but practiced. It brings these values into the community. Yet the church is also a place that is open to and invites the community within its walls. In faithfulness to the teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ, and mindful of our Anglican tradition that emphasizes God’s grace and reconciliation with all people, the Ascension welcomes all those who have ever felt excluded by the Church or their community because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental challenges, financial resources, or family status. You are most welcome to this holy and sacred place we call the Ascension as we work together transforming our communities and answering God’s call to make our world a place of justice, peace, and mercy.