Centerport United Methodist Church
The Pastor's message comes from the July issue of our monthly church newsletter - The Focus.


    When I served in Westport, CT as the Associate Pastor, we would hand out seed packets every Spring with the words “Come Grow With Us” printed on the front side.  We handed these out at the Memorial Day Parade we marched in, and at other community gatherings.  We also handed them out to our neighbors as we met them naturally in town.
It also was a wonderful example of what UM Bishop Richard Schnase calls “Radical Hospitality.”  These are two words we don’t usually put together, but as the bishop writes, “By radical, I don’t mean wild-eyed, out of control, or in your face.  I mean people offering the absolute utmost of themselves, their creativity, their abilities, and their energy to offer the gracious invitation and reception of Christ to others.”  Churches characterized by this quality are not just friendly and courteous to visitors, but “pray, plan and work to invite others and to help them feel welcome and to support them in their faith journeys.”
Active invitation: it’s what we’re moving towards in our church right now.  I am glad to report that visitors consistently tell me that they are made to feel very welcomed when they come to our church.  Our warmth and friendliness are genuine.
The next step, though, is to get more of them through our doors.  My strong feeling is the United Methodist Church is one of the best-kept secrets in town - and beyond.  Our vital worship, wonderful music, child-friendly education program and vibrant fellowship need to be offered to more people.  We have too good a thing to keep to ourselves!
We need to get radical with our hospitality as stated in Bishop Schnase’s very helpful book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.  It has been discussed over the years at various incarnations of the UMC Growth Taskforce.
We have been working on updating our website that will be attractive and informative to visitors in this digital age when church-shoppers more often use the web rather than the phone book. 
Before we go any farther, though, we need to ask: Why invite people to our church?  True, we all want to grow our membership, but to what end?  This is where we need to get really radical---in a Jesus kind of way.  Jesus invited people all the time.  “Come, follow me…” he was heard to say on many occasions.  He also sent his disciples out into the world to spread his word.
Did Jesus do this to increase membership in his circle or to build a megachurch?  Hardly.  He did it simply to help people experience the love of God in their lives.  He did it not to sustain an institution but out of deep concern for those who hadn’t yet heard the good news he was telling.  He wanted to share the riches of God’s kingdom with more of God’s children.
Statistics tell us that 40-50% of people in our area have no relationship with a house of worship.  That means that half of our friends and neighbors do not educate their children in a faith; have no spiritual leader to call in a crisis; lack the spiritual community that can ground them in troubled times and support them in their spiritual journey.
I hope you’ll join me in getting radical by putting in practice a Vision Statement that has caught my attention: To Know, to Live and to Share the love of Jesus.   We’re planning some fun ideas and even some training in how to do it.  But the best way is to commit yourself to your own spiritual life, getting to know Jesus better and letting him lead you to do things that might surprise even you.  Like travelling around town, seed packets in hand.

           ~Pastor Roy

Pastor Roy at the Blessing of the Animals service.