Evangelism can be as simple and easy as a kind welcome.
But what is a kind welcome during the Covid-19 pandemic? Not bright red doors, a warm smile, a firm handshake, and an escort to the best pew in the house. More likely, a wave at our new congregants from our Zoom box. Many parishes have noted a marked increase in online service attendance. One starting example: St. Thomas Church, NYC, recorded a remarkable attendance of over 1,000 participants on a Sunday in August.
The Episcopal Church Evangelism Team recognized that a new model was imperative. How do we, as Christians, ensure that we are creating the community space that encourages continued spiritual engagement? The Evangelism Team revisited and revised tips in Hospitality 101 to help parishes and dioceses welcome new members in meaningful ways. The result of the work is Welcoming and Belonging in the Digital Sphere, a series of webinars and consultations for parishes and dioceses that help each of us evangelize in new ways.
These new resources will provide church leaders and volunteers with a framework to evaluate current practices and adopt new ones. There are ideas as simple as assigning a greeter to the chat room to welcome congregants at the login; and instructions for posting the service bulletin in the chat room, thus ensuring easy access for newcomers. These and many more tips and suggestions will help create a warm and welcoming community within the virtual one. The Evangelism Team meets with diocesan leaders around the country by Zoom to underscore the importance of this work.
Our worship and gathering in community to thank, praise, and draw near to God has moved beyond the walls of our sanctuaries. So must our commitment to welcoming seekers into our midst. The Episcopal Evangelism Team is helping all of us to seize this moment.