Links on Covenant – In my sermon this past Sunday, while speaking about covenant, I noted that Rev. Carol McKinley had also preached on the importance of covenant last month. The audio recordings of both sermons are still available on the same page of our website, in date order: mine of August 13 at the top (as of this writing), hers of July 9 a few entries down. Listen here.

Also, our own church covenant statement is worth reviewing – you can find it here.

Our Stewardship Team is exploring this theme of Living in Covenant for our annual Stewardship campaign, coming up this fall. As such, I’ll return to the theme of covenant – and particularly to themes lifted up in the OUUC Covenant – for sermons in mid-September and in mid-October that also connect with our commitments to this church. As we begin to reflect on our commitments of time, of talent, and of treasure to one another and to our faith community, may our covenantal promises to one another guide this discernment into the coming year.

Visitor Greetings – Some of you have noticed that the time of asking visitors to stand during worship has not been included these last two Sundays.* I understand this practice has changed widely between ministers here, and also that it is very popular among many members. One of the goals for worship and church life that I think most often about is how our various practices make our church feel more or less welcoming to newcomers. Yet while “visitors stand and introduce yourselves” times may be well-liked by long-term members of those churches doing this, evidence indicates this practice actually is counter-productive, that it decreases the likelihood of visitors wanting to return. It makes far more people feel uncomfortable, awkward, and put on the spot, than those who feel welcomed by it.

But what’s the evidence, you ask? Here’s the example I know best. Thom Rainer is a well-regarded church consultant. Though he’s an evangelical, most of his writing focuses on the “nuts and bolts” kinds of church issues that lead him to be respected by theological liberals and moderates, as well as conservatives. A couple years ago, he conducted a Twitter poll of people who had visited churches and decided not to return to them, asking their reasons why. The #1 answer, by far, was “having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service”. Many other clergy and church researchers across the theological spectrum have offered similar perspectives. Here are Rainer’s Top 10, plus a recent article by a UU minister expressing a similar concern:

1) http://thomrainer.com/2014/11/top-ten-ways-churches-drive-away-first-time-guests/

2) http://www.uua.org/worship/lab/10-things-my-gym-taught-me-about-how-be-welcoming-worship

These are my reasons for omitting this practice from worship: because it’s not effective at achieving its intended goal of making people feel welcome in worship. I’ll be happy to talk more with any of you who have questions for me about this.

*Some will remember that one of the services on my first Sunday with you, that we did include this intro time. That was my error in not communicating clearly with our celebrant that morning what I intended. It won’t be a continuing practice.

In faith,

Rev. Eric Posa