Have you ever come across one of our churches (other than your own) doing something interesting in your community? Maybe you were a part of “I Love Windsor” with Ambassador Baptist Church. Maybe you went to Mimico Baptist Church’s party in the park. Or maybe you happened upon your brothers and sisters in Collingwood when you went to the Elvis Tribute Festival.
The best part about all of this is that when that happens, it means that our churches are getting outside their walls and connecting with their neighbourhoods in ways that are friendly, warm and fun. We are making ourselves accessible to our neighbours and for those who’ve never been into a church, we’re demystifying what goes on behind closed doors and stained glass windows.
I hope you’ll allow me to go a bit personal with you now, because I had just such an experience last week. We took our family and a couple of visiting youngsters to the Weston Santa Claus Parade in Toronto. If you’ve never seen it, think small town in the big city. There are just a few floats, lots of candy canes, local bands and dance schools out strutting their stuff and a whole lot of unreasonably overjoyed citizens all cheering the arrival of Santa Claus. The crowds were respectable but not overwhelming, the fanfare delightful and much to my astonishment the MP, MPP and city councillor were all in attendance, greeting their constituency in a surprisingly accessible way.
One of the floats was provided by Weston Park Baptist Church—a mobile nativity scene surrounded by marching bands and dancers. The float was simple and in good company—other local churches were also represented—but the scene provided a gentle reminder of Christ in the midst of the parade. And the kids on board? They were some of the best sports around. They boldly waved and smiled above a sign that said, “All Are Welcome.”
Maybe it was just an overabundance of Christmas spirit that hit me, but I’d encourage you to think about that for a second. “All are welcome.” What a simple and profound message that is as we head into the Christmas season. You are welcome. Your neighbour is welcome. Your community is welcome. All are welcome to the place of Christ.
I have to admit it; I get a bit misty at the thought.
But that’s not all. Later in the day, I discovered that my husband had been recruited by someone at Weston Park Baptist Church to be involved in a food bank drive. So there we were with our wagons full of children, going door to door, dropping off paper bags with instructions for what to include and a notice that someone would come and pick them up on December 4. And there on the attached flyer it says, “Weston Park Baptist Church.” (By the way, dropping things in people’s mailboxes goes over extremely well with 3-5 year-olds. It is very exciting.)
On that day, I felt both on the inside and the outside of that church—part of the bigger family—but also observing as an outsider what makes them special; what I saw is a group of people who love their neighbourhood and care for those who live in it.
We’re not a perfect tribe. God knows (and I mean that) that we have a long way to go. But there is hope. There is peace. There is joy. There is love. There is Jesus.