And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:5 NIV)
Walthamstow, the area where I live in north east London, is famous for a few things.
E17, (now known as East 17), is a pop group that has sold over 18 million records worldwide, and was formed in Walthamstow, taking its name from the postcode of the area.
The High Street is dominated by Walthamstow Market, which began in 1885, and is the longest street market in Europe.
William Morris, the textile designer and early leading socialist was born in Walthamstow. The William Morris gallery, housed in Walthamstow, was the winner of the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013.
As a place Walthamstow has long history: It is recorded c. 1075 as Wilcumestowe and in the Doomsday Book of 1086 as Wilcumestou. It is also noted that King John visited the area in 1213.
This history is all very interesting but its the name Wilcumestowe that intrigued me. It means: The place of welcome.
Im not sure how well Walthamstow has lived up to the meaning of its historic name but what a lovely name for an area to have.
It signifies that as travellers approached they would receive a warm welcome and for those who live in Wilcumestowe that they should provide a warm welcome.
Isnt that how the Christian church should be?
Every local congregation should be a place of welcome to those who pass through their doors.
The trouble is many congregations resemble war zones rather than places of welcome: Theres so much political infighting, doctrinal divisions, gossip and cliquish behaviour, that is it any wonder that a newcomer doesnt feel welcomed?
Jesus attitude is, if we welcome a child, someone who was regarded as having no status who was viewed as weak and a burden on society who had little value to the wider life of the community, then its as if we are welcoming him.
There are many people in this world who are hurting, who are in pain, who are desperately seeking solace and need a place of welcome.
Can our churches be places of welcome?
Can we welcome people as they come to our door as if it was Jesus himself paying a visit?
One of the greatest things a new person can hear as they come into our congregations is Hello, you are very welcome here.
Perhaps this has something to do with the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:1-5) What do you think?
Father, thank you for welcoming me into your family; please help me to extend a warm welcome to all you bring into contact with our local church so that our congregation is known as a place of welcome.
Have a welcoming week,