Open doors and smiling faces
St Peter Mancroft Church is in the heart of Norwich and a steady stream of visitors arrives every day. Sometimes people visit because of a specific event or exhibition, for example the Luke Jerram ‘Gaia’ installation last October, which drew some 45,000 visitors, or the Makers Festival this March.
However, many simply want to enjoy being in a beautiful and uplifting place, or to light a candle and say a quiet prayer.
The welcome at Mancroft begins with the open doors and the smiling faces of the two Welcomers on duty that day. Experience has shown it’s best to be fairly ‘light touch’ – often visitors don’t want to get into a long conversation. However, some do want to chat or even share their burdens, so a listening ear is usually more important than a well-polished description of the church. Nonetheless, there is an up-to-date Guidebook available, as well as a copy of the weekly Newsletter. One pitfall is to use ‘in-house’ language or descriptions which only regular congregation members will understand, so this is avoided as much as possible.
The simple act of saying, ‘Of course you can bring your dog in’ goes a long way to making for a heartfelt welcome. Being as inclusive as possible is really important. Speaking about the approach taken at Mancroft, the Vicar, Canon Edward Carter, said: “So many visitors say to me they’ve not been into a church for years, and a good welcome will bear this in mind. A smiling face at the door helps overcome any hesitations or fears. I love asking people whether they’re local or not, and that simple question often opens up a very warm conversation. Although we have tens of thousands of visitors every year, a genuine desire to make sure people know they can treat the church as their home applies anywhere. It’s all about putting the amazing hospitality of God into practice.”
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