When you volunteer at the literature stall (the lit stall) after Sunday service, people come up to you with questions. Not all the questions are about copies of sermons.
“Can you help me with the name of that person, the one over there with their back to us?”
“Sorry, I can’t. Are they wearing a nametag?”
“No, that’s the problem. I spoke with them last Sunday. Now I can’t remember their name. And I don’t like to ask them.”
“Maybe they’re like Wendy Bryan (pictured, right) when she is at a no-nametag gathering.”
“How do you mean?”
“Wendy always says, ‘Thank you for asking. It’s Wendy Bryan. And feel free to ask me again the next time we meet. I won’t have remembered you asked me.’”
Nice. But hey.
That person you spoke with last Sunday and who seems to be avoiding you now may simply be too embarrassed to admit to you they can’t remember your name.
When you volunteer at the lit stall after Sunday service, people come up to you with questions. Not all of these people are wearing nametags. Asking for a friend: If you have a nametag, could you please wear it? And earn a silent thank-you from that friend.
Wearing your nametag helps us all. Nametags help us make connections and build community.
Karen Bartlett and Nancy Strider are wearing yellow nametags at the welcome table (picture, above left) by the entrance to Hewett Centre. If you’re a visitor, ask whoever is at the welcome table wearing a yellow nametag to direct you to the lit stall and to the sermon discussion table.
The above is a lit stall post. In the bulleted list below are the three latest posts with that tag.
Newcomers and new members often have a hard time connecting with others at UCV. The hardest time is when they leave the service and enter the Hall room. They find themselves amongst a large group who seem to know one another…really well. It’s overwhelming. Even intimidating. So several of us asked ourselves, “What can we do?” And came up with the idea of creating a Sermon Discussion group.
Tamiko Suzuki thought it might create a friendly, casual environment where these new folks could sit with others and converse…introduce themselves … and talk about that morning’s sermon. A shared experience. Well, she was absolutely right.
We held the SD for several months and it was a real success. Those who attend are newcomers, new members and regulars. We averaged ten participants – the Sermon Groupies.
Sessions were moderated by a facilitator. “The discussions are thoughtful, insightful and dynamic,” said one new member. Another regular added, “This really enriches the potential Sunday experience.” One of the facilitators thanked everyone “for sharing in a meaningful discussion”. And another new member who comes frequently said, “it was a good discussion. I have been impressed so far with the depth and quality of communication in these sessions.”
There was a need to connect. The Sermon Discussions found one way to address that need. The group met weekly after services in the Priestley room from noon – 1:15.
Now the experiment is over having fulfilled the mission of connecting many people and helping them make new connections.
Have you wished there was a quiet(er) space to have a meaningful conversation about the service on Sundays?
At the forum last week, the panel for Connect and Engage acknowledged that new people and visitors especially can feel overwhelmed by our busy (noisy, crowded) coffee and lunch hour. Indeed most people present (including me) reported that when they were new they found it hard to get connected. Those there of course persevered seeing that there was a lot worth persevering for. We do have some concern that others may just not try as hard as these stalwart folk.
If you’re a regular, look around on a Sunday morning and you might see someone seemingly mesmerized by the bulletin board or lurking near the coat rack not sure how to get engaged.
Not all, but some, members report that when they first came they found us unwelcoming. They sat at a table at lunch and no one started a conversation with them. Some are generous enough to admit that they themselves could have started a conversation, but didn’t. I think we all know it’s difficult sometimes to join a group of people who seem like they all know each other so we want to make it easier.
Tamiko Suzuki recalls a conversation that she and Mary Bennett had early on when she started coming to UCV after moving from the North Shore Unitarian Church. (Mary had noticed her lurking on the edge of the Hall.) She says, “Mary told me to find a small group to get involved with. Then I joined the Environment Committee and got very involved. Now I realize sometimes that I am part of what I would have called a “clique”. On Sundays, I’m busy connecting with other people on our team. We often sit together for lunch, starting a pre-meeting before we’ve even got to the meeting room.”
At a forum in January, Tamiko shared a suggestion of having a table set aside for discussing the sermon. This idea fell on fertile ground among those there and we now have a team who will take turns hosting the table. As Tamiko says, “Because the discussion is guaranteed to be on that day’s subject, everyone would be on equal footing (because they just heard it).” Everyone is welcome, but if you want to chat about upcoming events or other issues, this isn’t the place for you—at least not on that particular Sunday.
Melody Mason who joined about three years ago and Sheila Resels are getting together to do more planning about how we can make this new experiment work well. Sheila says, “I wouldn’t say I felt unwelcome. It was more that it was so overwhelming. And when it’s so busy, I feel we need to reach out even more to counteract that.”
Melody noted that one of the themes from Phil Campbell’s service on Shared Ministry was that we can intend to be welcoming, but without a system in place, it might not happen at least not as well as our aspirations would lead us to want to be.
Starting February 4, 2018, a host from the Connect & Engage Team has been in Priestley (the East part of Lindsey-Priestley) to welcome anyone who wants to join in on a conversation about that day’s sermon. There are always thought-provoking and conversation-starting aspects to the service in any Unitarian congregation.
The host will make sure people are welcomed and introduced to each other. If they are new and have questions that weren’t answered at the Welcome Table the host will try to refer them to answers. And they’ll make sure the discussion sticks to the topic of the day.
On the first Sunday of each month, we’ll be sharing the space with Compu Tutor, who have generously offered to take their offerings into the Lindsey portion. We’ll pull the accordion partition shut.
There may be days when the room is fully booked, in which case we’ll set aside a table in the Hall, one close to the entrance with a sign on the table.
Are you someone who feels passionate about making sure our visitors feel really welcome and want to help them get connected and engaged? If the answer is yes, that’s great anyways. If you want to go one step further and help by hosting the Sermon Discussion table one Sunday, you can signup here.