A recent disappointment inspired me to reflect on the nature of invitation and welcome. I had planned an event, inviting several people over Facebook and by email. The hurt came not from the low attendance, but that so few people chose to respond to my invitation. In the modern day response to an invitation does not require a phone call or a written acknowledgement of the event--only a few seconds to click 'yes', 'no', or 'maybe'. Of the hundred or so people I selected to share the celebration, only about a dozen invested a few seconds to acknowledge the occasion. If you send me an invitation to an event, you can expect a reply from me. I know how hurtful it is to select the people with whom you want to commune, and find that they will not invest even a few seconds to acknowledge your invitation. Community does not happen by accident and support does not thrive in a vacuum.
On a recent Sunday, the scripture reading was on the parable of the wedding banquet. Part of what I took from the meditation on Luke 14:7-14 was the reminder that invitation should not necessarily involve strategy, inviting the "the right people". Although we should humbly remember not to expect our appeals to be reciprocated, we might expect better than to see them ignored.
In our culture people often refer to their efforts to 'forge relationship' by building community for mutual and expansive benefit. Some surely well-meaning folks 'force relationship' for their own benefit, likely overlooking Jesus' revised seating chart. This leaves others to 'forage relationship' with those who will move beyond tolerance to acceptance. Those exhausted by these efforts may choose to 'forgo relationship', withdrawing from people and faith.
The experience we share as members and friends at Saint Andrew reflects readily open invitation, illustrated most conspicuously through the invitation extended every week to the table. One beloved member of Saint Andrew has shared that the word which came to his mind the first time he set foot in our sanctuary was "welcome". The peaceful yet dynamic spirit of this congregation redeems us from often forced relationship. The spirit of welcome fortifies foraged relationship. The spirit of lasting hope has retrieved some for whom disillusionment caused them to forgo relationship. Only when we *forge* relationship can we truly Seek God, Create Community, and Practice Justice.
The open invitation to participate in the dynamic event of your life, the lives of others, and the life of Saint Andrew Christian Church has arrived in your inbox. Please respond. Send no regrets. It will be worth your time to click 'yes'.
David Whitner sent his RSVP to join Saint Andrew in 2001.