Last week I began to reflect on the promises people make when joining the United Methodist Church, to support the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, and their service. Today I want to consider the second of those: to support the church with our presence.
There was a time when to be an active member of a church was generally understood that one would attend worship at least three Sundays our of four. Certainly, in those days it never occurred to anyone to think of that in any terms than in person presence. A lot has changed over the years, never more so than in the last two and a half years! These days we have some active participants (members or not) whose faces I seldom see, but who attend worship regularly on line. While I am thrilled to see more people in person, I respect the choice of some to stay away from crowds and so to continue to worship virtually. I am delighted that we continue to offer that option, at least for our 9:30 service.
In addition, to support by one’s presence means more than attendance at worship. Being present at studies, work parties, team and committee meetings is also important. We need the participation of many people to carry out our ministries.
Perhaps most of all, is being present TO other people. That may happen when interacting with a guest at a Winter Hospitality Overflow Shelter, listening to a friend or neighbor who is having a down day, of paying full attention to a child who has something to tell you. Being present to others means listening, looking at them, noticing when something seems off or different about them than they usually are, and truly accepting people for whatever and whoever they are.