Sunday was July the Fourth. More than a date on anyone's calendar, it is a holiday for persons and families everywhere to spend extended time enjoying the freedom that our nation has established over two centuries of defense and vigilance. It is freedom won by soldiers, sailors and airmen, who leave behind home and family to where they are needed. July the Fourth is a celebration. July the Fourth is a mindset.
Sunday was July the Fourth, but thankfully, I witnessed first-hand that our congregation was right where it should have been. I'm not talking about location or geography. I would never dare suggest people need to be in worship every weekend. I believe that people should be absent from worship from time to time: when away on vacation, or in town but under the weather. But what I witnessed were the great people of Epworth extending hospitality in ways that received notice.
After worship, I spent some time with a young couple, first-time visitors to our worship at Epworth, and they mentioned repeatedly how welcomed they were. They spoke about those sitting around them in worship, and those who greeted them afterwards.
A few years back the United Methodist Church adopted language that now appears in our Book of Discipline (¶ 122) describing "welcoming and gathering" as one of the primary tasks. These actions were at the center of Jesus' ministry, and they are necessary of every congregation seeking to bring people into a life of growing as disciples. Epworth put these beliefs into action. Well done, church.