A Faithful Welcome

Our first Sunday following our joint services with Bloor Street United Church was on September 6, Labour Day weekend. It was a particularly hot day, and a smaller congregation, which gave us the opportunity to try a few new things during worship. The scripture for the Sunday was James 2:1-10,13-17. Here is an excerpt of my sermon:

 

So the title “Faithful Welcome,” went up on our sign on Wednesday, and I was feeling satisfied until I walked past the sign on my way home: “Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, service at 10:30. Faithful welcome.” Suddenly I realized that “faithful,” which I had intended as an adjective modifying the notion of welcome could be read as something else entirely – a collective adjectival noun (The Faithful). Our sign could be seen as saying to people, “those who are faithful are welcome” and by implication, not those who are not faithful. Oh no! Those two words could mean two entirely contrasting things – my notion of a faithful welcome being one that would welcome anyone, without any differentiation, while a notion of the faithful carrying connotations of exclusivity and quite likely some form of strict doctrinal adherence. A possibility that had not even occurred to myself or the other staff when seeing it earlier. Needless to say, first thing Thursday morning I changed the sermon title one last time: “A Faithful Welcome.” It is actually a better title. The indefinite article, “a” clearly moves our attention to the welcome rather than permitting us to read “Faithful” as an adjectival noun. Better yet, that single letter that is an entire word, “a” opens up possibilities because it is not definite. “A faithful welcome” suggests that this is in the moment, that it is one of many options. In fact there is not one right way to welcome faithfully, and I imagine your faithful welcome would often look quite different from mine. It gives space for our questions: what might a faithful welcome look like at Trinity-St.Paul’s in the 21st century, at the heart of Toronto, on a hot Sunday morning?

 

Looking ahead, we will be beginning 5 Sundays related to Creation Time next week. How do we live with respect in creation when we live in the city?

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