I am aware that practising hospitality is one of my big 'things' when it comes to church, so you won't be surprised to discover my sadness on recently attending two different Sunday services, in two different places where, on arrival and departure I received not one single greeting from another church member...!
Arriving as a 'stranger' ( in one place, complete with 'wheelie' suitcase) you would have thought that people might have noticed me ( if only because of recent news stories of supicious luggage items having defastating effects!) but not one church member came and said "hello", "welcome", "Are you new to church?" (Even in one place where, after the service, I spent 20 minutes sipping my glass of champagne to celebrate someone's engagement!!!)
You can imagine the contrast, therefore, when later in the day I visited another church (seeking to grow its engagement with young people, families and all ages) where, between walking through the door and sitting down (2 mins max) no fewer than 3 people SMILED, said "HELLO!" or "WELCOME" and / or SHOOK MY HAND and INTRODUCED THEMSELVES!
God's loving acceptance of all ( even a sinner like me!) flowed through these people and I immediately felt 'at home'.....
You also don't need me to tell you, if I was a visitor looking for a church to belong to, which one I would return to....!?!
The delicate but precious art of welcome is SO important and its effects (for good or ill) ENORMOUS!