Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me.’” Matthew, Chapter 25
As this verse clearly indicates, welcoming strangers is an indispensable part of Christian ministry. In fact, the welcome we provide to strangers is no less sacred than welcoming Jesus himself.
Our church sign greets people with the message that “All Are Welcome.” An important aspect of welcoming is accessibility. Handicap access in the rear of the church building, an elevator to transport people from one floor to another without the necessity of using stairs and, more recently, reserved parking for those who require only a short walk from car to church entrance, are all expressions of hospitality to folks with varying mobility issues. However, sometimes the best vantage point for determining how welcoming a church actually is comes not from the inside looking out, but from the perspective of an outsider’s first visit. Lately, there have been two incidents involving visitors to the church where guests unfamiliar with the building were confused by the presence of Handicap parking spaces near the office entrance where there is not handicap access. Based on the lessons of these incidents the Trustees and Deacons have been reevaluating our accessibility measures in order to avoid future confusion. Some of the proposed changes you might be seeing could include:
- A strategically placed sign to clearly direct people to the rear of the building for handicap access.
- A church member at the rear entrance to greet and assist visitors with operation of the elevator location of restrooms, and directions to the sanctuary.
- Replacement of the present Handicap Parking signs near the office entrance with signs that would reserve those spaces for people with limited mobility but not requiring a ramp or elevator to gain access to the building.
The goal of these adaptations is to be more efficient in our efforts at being welcoming to all – both church members and guests. And in doing that, to be welcoming to Jesus.