Last week, I joined Our
Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral parish staff for a webinar sponsored by the Amazing Parish movement. The topic was Hospitality During the Holidays and Beyond. They
had some great ideas on hospitality, one of my favorite was “no one touches the
doorknobs.” The idea is that when parishioners and visitors come to the parish
for the Mass, the hospitality ministers/greeters are the ones who open the door
for them; both coming and leaving.
Here are some other thoughts and reminders on offering
generous hospitality this Christmas season.
- Start at the
beginning by helping people find their way into your Church. Parishes need to
examine if Mass is easy to find: Are directions to the church easily
accessible? Is it obvious to the stranger where to park? Is the entrance to the
church obvious? Once inside, is it clear
where they should go?
are welcome; no insiders or outsiders. See
all people as participants in the liturgy. Avoid talking to or printing notices
that communicate in terms of “insiders” and “outsiders.”
Any hint that someone is perceived as an outsider is the same as saying,
“No room at the inn!” For
instance, acronyms and abbreviations that are unfamiliar to a newcomer can make
them feel like outsiders.
asking people to identify themselves as visitors. For every one person who
likes that kind of attention, there are ten who do not.
assume that anyone knows anything! Print it. Project it. Find some way to
tell everyone in words or print where to find it (i.e. music, mass parts, mass
settings, prayers). Be clear about the page numbers. Announce page numbers and
print up an Order of Worship on a half sheet of paper making it easy for
everyone in the assembly to participate fully in the Mass. We want full,
active, and conscious participation.
the church’s faith without apology or hesitation. Any who come want to be
part of a living community’s drama of welcoming Jesus. In doing so, they hope
to discover again — or for the first time — who God is and who Jesus is —
“up close and personal.” Don’t try to play to the audience. This is a
glorious night full of God’s splendor, mystery, and presence. Sing, pray,
rejoice in all the ways your community is able. Deep joy and genuine excitement
are contagious and appealing. Skip anything that is phony or contrived. Be the
best versions of yourself!
sure to keep a balance between less known and more familiar carols and hymns.
church members to show hospitality through attentiveness and warmth to
those taking seats near them — making sure each person has a hymnal, an Order
of Worship if there is one, enough room, or a friendly word of guidance about
where to turn in the hymnal. Hospitality ministers/greeters are important, but
what will make a lasting and loving impression is the demonstration of grace
and caring by the people in the pews who share the journey.
- Offer options in Mass
times. Christmas Eve is a night when more is better as far as options are
concerned — even in smaller parishes. Inconvenient for the pastor, musicians,
ushers? Yes, but what are we to be about: convenience or preaching the Gospel
to the ends of the earth?
all the people just because they are there for this time, this holy night.
Forget about wondering and worrying about whether or not they will come back.
leave breadcrumbs along the path so that if people want to come again,
they know how and when to return. Bulletin notices or a special insert with
worship times, how to contact the church office or pastor, and information
about the parish’s distinctive ministries welcomes participation and sends the
Table: Set up a “Welcome to Newcomers” table in the vestibule of the church
before and after Mass as often as possible. Make sure that volunteers at the
table understand their duties.
newcomers to your parish is not just the job of the pastoral staff, ushers, ministers
of hospitality or greeters. It is everyone’s responsibility. Cultivate the
virtue of hospitality at Mass, encourage every parishioner to take
responsibility for creating a welcoming atmosphere. For instance, encourage
everyone in your parish to:
aware of the fact that many Mass attendees tend to gather into little cliques
and ignore those who are not members of their particular clique. They are not
really inhospitable, just heedless of the need for hospitality. Make hospitality
a new habit when you go to Mass.
early, leave late. Instead of rushing to mass to be there on time, and then
rushing out at its conclusion, make time to come a little early and linger just
a bit later. Make room in your busy life to greet and spend time with others at
in peace to greet someone! Seek out someone you’ve not met before. Shake their
hand, introduce yourself, and take a few moments to welcome them to your parish
home, God’s house.
everyone. Not only do visitors need your warm welcome, regular Mass attendees
also need a friendly greeting. Develop a good handshake and be enthusiastic
about your parish. You are greeting others in the name of Christ.
newcomers connect. While you are getting to know visitors, introduce them to
other parishioners as the opportunity presents itself. Feel free to invite
visitors to sit next to you.
goodbye with genuine warmth. After Mass, bid farewell to visitors, inviting
them to return next week. Introduce them to the pastor if the opportunity
- Avoid parish
business. Avoid conducting parish business with others just before or after
mass. Focus on visitors.
- Give visitors
information about the parish. Ensure that a visitor has a bulletin and other
information about the parish before they leave. If there is a social gathering
after mass, invite them.
part of a greeting ministry team. Parishes are always in need of greeters to
serve regularly, and provide ongoing formation to new greeters. Help out, be a
greeter. If your parish doesn’t have greeters, now is a good time to start!
and thank those who already minister in the area of hospitality. It isn’t
necessary to neglect the people who are already ministers of hospitality in
order to make visitors feel at home. A simple wave and a smile go a long way.
Minister of Hospitality/Greeter
Lord, in your love you gather your
people this day, help me to serve them in a Christ like manner, even as your
son Jesus served those who gathered about him. Make me prayerful, patient,
helpful and understanding, and may I radiate the joy that faith brings as I
serve their needs. Give me your strength to support my fellow ministers. May
all who assemble to celebrate our common faith in the risen savior be glad of
heart for being here and for having encountered your son in one another, in our
priest, at the tables of the book and the bread, and through the ministry of
ushers like me. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Fr. Mark’s Musings
week four parishes from our diocese, Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help,
St. Michael’s in Hermosa, Blessed Sacrament in Rapid City, and St. Joseph’s in
Spearfish sent teams of five to “the amazing parish”
conference in Denver, Colorado. I was able to participate as an observer. I
think there were some hundred plus parishes from around the country.
two day conference was based on seven traits of an Amazing Parish.
Real Leadership Team
Vision and Plan
more information please check out the amazing parish webpage www.amazingparish.org
Francis describes the parish in this way: “the parish is the presence of the
church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth
in Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and
Amazing Parish Prayer
Father, You have gathered us together as a parish to be Your visible life in
our world. Here we unite in worship, proclaim your word, celebrate the
Eucharist, and are sent forth to share Your love and make disciples. Lord, we
take your Great Commission seriously and long for our parish to be so on- fire
that we draw people to You. Help us in that endeavor, as we strive to work
together — ordained, religious and laity. Please make our parish amazing,
through Your power and your grace. Amen.
Fr. Mark’s Musings