I am old enough to remember watching the sitcom, “Cheers.” At that point, I had no idea of Kirstie’s connection to Wichita. I mostly remember the song about the bar….a place….where everybody knows your name.
It is not, in my opinion, a realistic or desirable goal for Chapel Hill to be a place where everybody knows your name. If that were our goal, we would most assuredly be a smaller congregation and would not realize our redemptive potential.
However, it is a realistic and desirable goal for Chapel Hill to be a place where somebody knows my name! And hopefully, several “somebody’s.” Our mother congregation, who gave birth to Chapel Hill, Bethel UMC, was such a place like Cheers where everybody knows your name. Our tag line was, “Where Everybody is Somebody and Jesus is Lord!” One Sunday, at our mother church, Bethel, a pastor who had gone through a difficult time in his life showed up for worship. By the grace of God, he was emotionally moved during the service. He came alone and was sitting alone. In the same pew was a man named Reuel Dickeson. It was obvious to Reuel the person in his same pew, (he didn’t know he was a pastor) was in need of a comforting presence beside him. He moved and patted the pastor on the back. He didn’t say anything but he said everything that needed to be said without words. The pastor called me the next day and said the grace of God as communicated through the pat on the back was what he needed to get through the day knowing he wasn’t alone as he walked through the valley of the shadow of death. He knew Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was with him but as is often true, “sometimes we need God with flesh on!”
Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek in suburban Chicago, tells the story of one of his good friends and empoyees who was traveling for Willow Creek throughout Europe. When he arrived in Europe, he was overcome with the reality of accumulative grief through the death of his grand-daughter very suddenly. She had died several months before, but for some reason, the loneliness of traveling overseas hit him hard and he was so aware of his grief and loss. One Sunday, during that trip, he was sitting in a church and he couldn’t hold it in. Something in the music moved him emotionally and the dam broke and he was crying uncontrollably. To his surprise and to Bill’s astonishment, not one person reached out to comfort his friend Gary. He said the experience of sobbing alone in a strange place was so overwhelming. He called Bill that afternoon and told him the story I shared with you. Bill said, “I vow to you Gary your experience will never happen to someone at Willow Creek!” And that was the beginning of what Willow Creek calls section greeters. The greeters for each service sit in a designated section and greet every person who sits there and when somebody is obviously in need of some extra grace and love, the section greeter is the one who reaches out, in case somebody else doesn’t. Bill Hybels, said through tears, what a travesty to think someone who is in need of God’s healing grace would come to our church and cry alone.”
Chapel Hill….we desperately need section greeters for our sanctuary at each service. Are you willing to be an instrument of God’s grace to a person seeking genuine sanctuary in God’s house? If so, please let me know. Kellie Ochsner and I are going to work toward this. This is not to replace greeters at the doors but only to maximize our opportunity to be a place where at least one person knows my name!
Thanks for your prayerful consideration!