We have been praying our Prayer of Belonging for a few weeks now. It is a prayer asking God to help us individually and as a parish community to reach out to others and help them to feel welcome. Recently someone gave me a card she found in a parish she was visiting. The title on the card was: All Are Welcome – How to be a Church of Open Doors. Below are some of the ideas they had for being a more welcoming place.
- If you see a parent struggling with a child’s behavior, offer a friendly smile, a sympathetic nod, or a helping hand.
- If you see a person physically struggling to get in, hold open a door, scoot down in the pew, or offer to carry something.
- If you see a person exhibiting unusual behavior, understand that it might be a sign of disability. Embrace the person as a child of God and
understand each of us has different ways of receiving and communicating God’s love.
- If you see someone who is disheveled or out of sorts, consider that he or she might be in dire straits. Act with compassion.
- Some people may struggle to get to or sit through the Mass. Offer a ride, an open door, or simply acceptance and understanding.
- A warm smile, a nod, or a small kindness can make all the difference.
On August 23rd we had an Open Door mass here at Holy Spirit at the 10:30 mass. A blind person proclaimed the first reading. A deaf person signed the second reading. A person signed the mass for anyone who was deaf. Different people with disabilities brought the gifts to the altar. Three people were communion ministers. One was our server. After mass our visitors were complimentary of the way our church is designed. It works really well for people with disabilities. One parent commented that they felt so welcomed by parishioners who reached out to them. It was a good experience for our parish and a reminder of that call to welcome all people and help them to feel like they belong.
Below is a reflection for this week’s scripture readings. Its title is Precious Gifts.
The gift of hearing is a precious gift.
But it is only with the heart that we can hear rightly.
The cry of a needy person may reach our ears,
but unless it reaches our heart
we will not feel the person’s pain,
and it is unlikely that we will respond.
And the gift of speech is a precious gift.
But again it is only with the heart that we can speak rightly.
For our words to ring true, they must come from the heart.
If they come only from the lips,
they will have a hollow sound and will have little effect.
They will be like a wind that ruffles the surface of the water
but leaves the depths untouched.
But words that come from the heart, enter the heart.