You’re very welcome!

Published on: 1 July 2018

After 37 happy years attending the same central Norwich church, we felt it would be better, having moved out to Taverham, to find somewhere local to worship. After a couple of services at St Edmund’s we knew that this was the place we wanted to be.

Almost every time we talked to someone new, and we asked them how long they’d been at St Ed’s, we got the same sort of answer, “I was in a difficult place in my life, and when I came here I was made to feel so very welcome.” It became sort of litany of thankfulness.

Our vicar, Paul and his wife, Rachel, are such open and welcoming people that they have set the tone. Now they have set the ball rolling, the welcoming process seems almost unstoppable. And other things have worked here to support this welcome.

An open policy on weddings and baptisms.

At St Ed’s, while we explain very clearly the significance of the promises that people are about to make, we then allow them to be involved on their own terms – just whatever they feel comfortable with.

A wide variety of services.

People are individuals and have varied tastes in music, service styles and different time commitments. The church therefore puts on many (very) different services on several days of the week: 8am and 10.30am Sunday communions, all-age services, all-age communions, Julian meetings, café services, Messy Church, evening prayer, and compline, as well as running a range of home groups. The Revd Seabrook has built up a team and shares the ministry with three retired or part-time clergy, a Reader and three Authorised Worship Assistants (AWAs), plus other lay helpers.

A strong pastoral ethos.

As well as these service leaders, there’s a pastoral team of seven people, plus a ministry team that offers prayer after every morning service, and there are teams going into care homes locally.

But how do we have so many people actively involved? The answer is largely just what I said earlier: make people feel welcome, and the chain reaction of welcoming will continue, as they feel committed to sharing with others all that they have received.

Having been made so welcome ourselves, we’re now helping to run a welcome café in the church on a Tuesday morning – anyone, church attender or not, is welcome to join us for a cup of tea or coffee, plus a slice of toast or something sweet, and in the middle of the morning there’s a well-attended toddler tunes session.

In this past 12 months I’ve come to experience, in a new and wonderful way, that God is welcome. What I mean is that I’ve rediscovered (after almost 50 years as a Christian!) that God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, embodies relationship. And because that love within the godhead is the very essence of what God is, he welcomes us into that deep relationship of love.

To know and experience welcome personified: “By this will everyone know you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.” It’s true that, as Jesus knew well, real love is very costly, but thankfully real love is amazing and wonderful and life-affirming! For me, that’s what’s at the heart of “Welcome”.

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Articles in this issue...

The unconscious bias question

Imagine that you are the designated welcomer in church. Today, there is a newcomer: tall, well dressed, and confident. How do you respond?


Love bade me welcome

In many, perhaps most cultures, the obligation to offer welcome and hospitality is taken very seriously.


An artful encounter with God

Everyone knows that lions live in wardrobes, monsters lurk down the toilet, and dragons emerge from cracks in the pavement. Whatever you do don’t step on the cracks!


Refugees welcomed with love in Lulea

During an intense period in the autumn of 2015 thousands of refugees came by train to stations in the Diocese of Lulea. Emma Berkman describes how the parishes acted immediately to make the arrival as loving as possible.


Welcoming different faiths at school

Each year Corton Church of England Primary School on the East Suffolk coast near Lowestoft holds three multi-faith days as part of their RE curriculum.


Sacred spaces for children

We can all picture the scene in church: a parent struggles to pacify a crying baby while making fraught attempts to keep a toddler sitting and quietly engaged before finally the stares of other congregation members send them scuttling for the exit.


Sprowston’s vestry hour outreach

Andy Bunter unpacks how a different approach to vestry hour has opened the door to new opportunities.


Practising hospitality

I’ve been thinking about Biblical hospitality. Romans 12:13 reads “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality”. Sounds fairly straightforward, right?


A tasty welcome at Blakeney brunch

Biddy Collyer paid an early morning visit to St Nicholas Church in Blakeney to see for herself the tasty welcome that's taking the place by storm.


Places of welcome and sanctuary

Churches across the Diocese will welcome visitors to their buildings in Celebrating Open Churches that opens on Norfolk Day 27 July. It's a welcome that extends throughout the year in many and diverse ways, writes Marion Welham.


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