On Welcoming

The Welcoming Ministry

by Bill Davis

Session would like us to be intentional about and narrow the focus of the process of the welcoming ministry at Dayspring church.

So we thought of looking at some successes from our past.

Today I would like to talk briefly about a friend of my dad’s, Alex Engelhart, and particularly about the welcoming ministry of Alex and then, by his inclusion, my dad.

These two men somehow were exceptional at the welcoming ministry.

In the last years of his life I asked my dad about the times he had with Alex, and back when I was a young man I remember the many debates I had with him about many things, including the topic of evangelism.

He didn’t like the word, or the way it was practised…

Someone said recently that we are all magnets – we either attract or repel.

In the past, many Presbyterian churches in Edmonton would make an effort to expand our evangelical approaches to the community around us, seeking out people and trying too get them into the church building.

These processes would very often meet with limited short term results and then slowly fade into the background as enthusiasm waned.

But such was not the case for Alex Engelhart – the man after whom the area between the kitchen and the offices, with a fireplace, is named

Some said he had a talent for it. He wouldn’t have said so. He would have said it was just the thing you do.

It centred around this idea of how you should interact with people.

You welcome them in.

Alex had an understanding of what community was…

This was God’s community and even a stranger is part of God’s community.

He had no other motivation, no great cause, just a desire to enthusiastically participate in community with joy.

The message was love, well love as best expressed by two depression-raised world-war-two-era men. More a rough and tumble love, but straight from the heart.

People can see when they are truly valued and when they are not. They do not want to be a number to increase a church’s size. Who does?

People could see right away that Alex and Al were interested in them. They didn’t have time to think about it because they were immediately immersed in conversation, jokes, and laughter.

There were certain messages that came from these conversations

  • love
  • forgiveness,
  • acceptance (in a very big way),
  • inclusion,
  • accepting faults,
  • kindness (not just in the many words of encouragement but in acts),
  • and never judgement (in any way),

This is what we are as a congregation and that is all they communicated.

They had a profound recognition that they were a part of God’s community and so was everyone else.

They were far from perfect people, but they found all those things I just mentioned in the community of God and that gave them the joy that they also needed.

We are all in this together.

And that is the core of the welcoming community.

© Bill Davis, July, 2016

Bill is a retired schoolteacher. He and his family were members of the Rupert Street Presbyterian Church, which joined with Dayspring Church in 1969.