From Our Rector: September 2014
By the Rev. Dave Johnson
Posted September 3, 2014
When I was a freshman in high school I attended a very small private school, and was really shy. My family attended a large Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Virginia, and there was a large youth group as well. The time rolled around for the high school fall retreat that November, and against my will I went. It wasn’t that I was averse to going per se I just didn’t really know anyone else who was going and was very intimidated by the other kids, especially those who attended the big public high schools. I remember being dropped off in front of the church as sixty to seventy high school students were gathered in various groups in the large narthex. This was in the mid-80’s—so think Member’s Only jackets, Levi’s jean jackets with the collars pulled up, big hair, Sony Walkmen—and the students in various groups—the athletes, the preppies, the punks, the band crowd, the “brainiacs,” etc. I remember tossing my sleeping bag and duffle bag on the growing pile of luggage in the middle of the narthex and standing off to the side, sweaty hands nervously clenched in my jean jacket, trying to not appear as nervous as I was, stressing about where I would sit on the bus, calculating the hours until we would be back on Sunday afternoon.
Suddenly another student lumbered up to me—flannel shirt, braces, and (like me) struggling with acne. He smiled and extended his hand, “Hey, my name’s Rob! What’s your name?” I told him and he just started hanging out with me. We ended up sitting on the bus together, and although Rob was a grade ahead of me, as we talked we discovered that we had some things in common—we were both huge fans of the Washington Redskins, and we both liked a lot of the same bands (classic bands from the late 70’s and early 80’s like Styx, Boston, Rush, and The Cars)—we’d laugh as we’d mimic our favorite guitar riffs and rattle off our favorite lyrics. I ended up having a total blast that weekend, and Rob and I became good friends. For the next couple years I became very involved with that youth group, and the positive ripple effects of that experience continue to impact my life.
It all started with being welcomed by Rob. It was that simple.
The number one way churches grow is when people invite others to church with them—personal invitation—and the number one reason people remain at church is that they feel genuinely welcomed—not tolerated, not like a project, not like someone being proselytized—simply welcomed and accepted—for at the foot of the cross we are all on level ground. And the good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ has genuine welcomed (past tense) all of us. In response we are called to welcoming one another, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
I remain grateful for the exceptionally warm welcome you all have given me and my family here at Christ Church, and I look forward to all of us continuing to welcome one another each and every time we gather together.
Yours in Christ,