As part of our stewardship season, we are reflecting on the values into which we try to live at GPPC. Michelle Freeman Owens shared these thoughts in worship several weeks ago as she reflected on one of the ways in which we both experience and extend God’s abundant welcome to us all. And a special thanks to Nikki Walker for his wonderful picture of the children’s worship area that Michelle references below.
Hospitality is hard. Welcoming others into our midst involves intention, preparation, and a lot of work. It’s a challenge when it comes to welcoming someone into your home (the cleaning, the food, etc…), and it’s not easy to achieve at church.
When it comes to the church, when it comes to this church, I think we welcome people well. I say this as one who has been a part of this congregation for about a year and a half. When Maya (our five-year-old) and I first started attending GPPC, the children’s area made the biggest impression on both of us. For Maya, I believe it told her there was a place for her – even at four years of age – in the church. For me, its very location told of this congregation’s understanding of the importance of the whole family in worship. Here we can be – right up front.
And it’s not easy having children be in worship, with paper crinkling and stage whispers (and sometimes voices significantly louder than whispers…), just as I know what a challenge it can be to herd the pre-k children in choir practice each week to try to get them to all sing roughly the same note, or the conundrum of trying to teach problematic Bible stories in Sunday school (a worthy struggle I went through with my fellow church school teachers in the 3rd to 5th grade class last year). It’s difficult, and sometimes trying.
But the invitation and welcome that GPPC has extended to my family, and to all the children who come through these doors, makes a difference. The intention, preparation and work that have gone into creating spaces like this children’s area, like the children’s choir, like the wonderful Sunday school program, are, quite honestly, changing the lives of the young people here for the better. I, as a parent, can watch my child thrive, finding community among her peers and growing in her faith. And Maya will always know that church is a loving place – and that means she will know of a God who loves her, unconditionally, and a place she can always call home.
So it is because of that welcome, a welcome that can be imperfect and frustrating to achieve at times, that I give to the ministries of this congregation, both with money, and with time and talent. I give because, as Carla expresses every Sunday, I have experienced “God’s abundant welcome” here at GPPC, and I feel called to bring that abundant welcome to others.
Michelle Freeman Owens and Maya appeared in the children’s worship area about a year and a half ago and we’ve been delighted to see them sitting there ever since! When not teaching church school, working with our Worship committee and working with our social media efforts, Michelle is an ordained Presbyterian minister who serves as interim chaplain at Union Presbyterian Seminary.