During a staff meeting a couple of years back we got to chatting about questions that people had asked us about visiting a church. After that meeting I put together this list of “Frequently Asked Questions” and an attempt at some answers.
- What do I need to do to come to church? Come through the door. Really. And the only requirement is that you don’t have to do anything other than be imperfect. Perfect people will find the good news of Jesus quite unsatisfying.
- What do I need to wear? Ties and hats. Gotcha! Just kidding. Wear what you would normally wear in a social setting. When the Christian Church began it was notable for its diversity. People came from different cultural backgrounds, some were rich and some were poor, and so it is likely that you saw everything from suits to jeans (or their 1st century equivalent). Same applies today.
- Will I be asked to join? That doesn’t typically happen on your first visit, though you may find in some places that they’re so delighted to see you that it feels like you’re being asked to join. “Joining” is understood differently in different churches, but it normally requires some careful thought.
- What do I need to believe? You don’t have to believe anything to come to church. Truly.
- Will I be judged? I really hope not. Despite the zeal of some to be of assistance, the role of Judge is already taken.
- What if I want to be anonymous? Then you will remain anonymous. In our congregation we like to try and make you welcome by learning your name when you come in, but some prefer a degree of anonymity in their visit. That is your call.
- Is it okay to come to church just once in a while? Yes.
- Do I have to sing? No one will demand that you sing, but you may find that eventually it is an enjoyable experience, even if you aren’t especially good at it.
- Do I have to give money? See above.
- May I take communion? Depends on the church. In our fellowship, we affirm that those who love the Lord are welcome at the Lord’s table and so the decision take communion rests with you and how you choose to internally process that invitation. Other churches have different approaches so it often helps to ask someone about it. Most will answer helpfully, but sometimes there's the occasional individual who doesn’t respond to the question as diplomatically as they should. Some of us so treasure communion that we can be a little overwhelming, so please forgive us.
- I haven’t come for years—is it safe to come back? Yes, we really have missed you ... just don't sit in my seat. I'm kidding, okay?
Note: The opinions expressed on this blog are exclusively those of Phil Spencer and Dianne Collery. They are not necessarily those of St. Stephen's United Church or the other courts of the United Church of Canada.