It is finally Christmas! The day we have been preparing for since the first day of Advent. For many of us in Church ministry, Christmas celebrations are bustling and busy, full of extra Masses and duties that may make us forget the first quiet Christmas when our Lord came into the world so intimately as the baby Jesus. Often our faithful parishioners look at the Christmas Masses with frustration, having to arrive much earlier for a seat with pues overflowing with those “flower Catholics.” But what an opportunity Christmas is!
You are opening your doors today, not just for those flower Catholics, but also for those “monthly” Catholics, those who are on the “fringes” of your parish, who are not there weekly, but who could be real seekers and possibly engaged parishioners at some point in the future. What can be done on such a busy day, and throughout the year, to welcome one and all to your parish?
Is there “room in the inn” for those who come to your church door this Christmas?
St. Louis, Clarksville, is trying to connect with their Christmas visitors. While Msgr. Luca cannot possibly be the celebrant at all of the Christmas Masses, he and his staff created a welcoming video of personal greeting from the pastor, so that all might feel invited. But Christmas is not the only time that this parish reaches out to the community. In the past few years, they have hosted a community picnic and invite all those in their zip code to attend. They have carnival stands, games, and of course, invitations to worship and join the parish. This coming year they are hoping to weave the theme of mercy into their picnic event, inviting the community to share their burdens and praying with them. Most importantly, the staff at St. Louis realize that radical welcome cannot become a culture in their parish unless all of their “regular” parishioners see this as their ministry as well. That is why their parishioners are very involved in the hosting and implementation of the community picnic.
Fr. Paulson Mundanmani of Pleasant Hill, CA, challenged his regular parishioners to “Give the Gift of a Seat.” He normally has overflow Masses for Christmas and Easter. He strategically started the overflow hall Mass 15 minutes after the main church Mass. He invited the weekly parishioners to attend the hall Mass, and act as greeters and ushers for all the visitors to the main church Mass. Then they could attend the hall Mass afterwards. The result was a peaceful, joyful celebration at both Masses (see the Amazing Parish latest webinar for more information). How wonderful for visitors arriving 5 minutes before Mass to be welcomed and shown to a seat!
So, will your parishioners arrive today with the joy of hospitality, or the frustration of the crowds? What can be done to change this for this coming Easter and beyond?
Today, as we welcome Jesus into our hearts, let us all consider how we can welcome our brothers and sisters in our ministry this coming year. What is your parish planning to do to reach out beyond the boundaries of your parish? How can you create a culture of radical hospitality that will involve all of your parishioners?
Merry Christmas to us all!