I had just arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland and was supposed to meet my host at the airport. I didn't know what he looked like or where to find him, and though he had given me his phone number, my cell phone didn't have an international plan and the airport wi-fi wasn't connecting. I saw a few familiar things when I came out of customs into the waiting area: a coffee shop, some public computers for internet access, and even some phones. But I didn't (yet) have the currency. My host and I eventually found each other - it was a good portent that he had been in the coffee shop!
|One of (seriously!) 1000 shows, acts, venues going on|
for the "Fringe Festival"; Edinburgh Castle in the back
|People ordering food and drink before returning the their table.|
|Surely you can see this person urgently|
needs to get to the restroom? :)
Why share all that here, as mildly humorous as it might be? It is because...
Church can also be a confusing and mis-leading culture of different language and expectations that "outsiders" have difficulty navigating.
- Does your church have an unspoken dress code? Behavior code? Food in the sanctuary?
- Can someone unfamiliar with church easily figure out words and practices like "passing the peace," "fellowship hour," "doxology," "confession," "hymn of praise," "creed," or any other number of things churched folks probably take for granted?
- What about the more cultural/sub-cultural things like "ladies' circle," "covered dish dinner," "special offering," or even "youth group"? I mean, do people outside of church ever "take an offering" for anything? At least "collection" would be a little more understandable.
- What about standing and sitting, singing from a hymnal (or a screen), and so many of the things we do?
- Do we sometimes, unintentionally, show people the exit door?
Where I'm going with all this is THIS: Are there ways we can open up insider language to better welcome those who come from outside the church or the faith?
Now there is also a fine line between opening up insider language and practice and retaining the MYSTERY that can be an important part of a worshiping community. So, in my examples above, I didn't need or want my hosts to "speak American" to me; what did work well (which we all quickly learned) was how helpful it was for them to anticipate and recognize where I might have trouble and help 'translate' or 'interpret' things that might be unfamiliar.
I'd love to hear some ways folks have done this kind of "opening up" of insider language and practices, particularly where you also have been able to maintain some of the uniqueness of Christian worship and community!