A few weeks back, at fellowship after church, we were talking about when to start up fall programmes again –specifically Bible Study. One member, who has been long connected with the parish but over the summer started attending more regularly, asked a question: “Is that a secret society?”
Obviously, it was in jest; he ahs a great sense of humour. But it raised some significant awareness for us. Within the parish, we’ve been gathering for years for Bible Study. So we know what we mean when we’re talking about it: how it will be run, when it will take place, &c. But to someone who has never attended, there are all sorts of questions that can be asked.
Is it a set programme? Is there a cost? Is there additional material to purchase/borrow/study? What if I miss a week? Do I have to sign up?
Valid questions. Of course, for those of us who have been participating, we know all the answers – but we’re on the inside of this ‘secret society’. And, sadly, we hadn’t realized that meant our friend was on the outside of this knowledge.
Well, we were quick to remedy that. And we all had a good laugh.
We’ve been more conscious, however, now that we are starting fall programmes again, to articulate to the broader community exactly what we mean. For example, we’re more intentional to articulate the date/time/location, the format, the expectation. And we’re doing this to make sure everyone feels welcome to join us – we don’t want to BE a secret society.
We’re also now thinking about all of our other programmes and connections, and how these are shared with the broader community. Just because we know what we’re doing doesn’t mean others will, nor does it mean they will understand. We can’t presume that newcomers will necessarily know what our acronyms mean, what our scheduling codes are, where to find something they need. Because if we do, we’re unintentionally alienating folks. Of course they will, if they spend enough time with us, come to be familiar with our unique ways.
But – if we are to truly be welcoming, we need to help people feel comfortable, and part of the family. It’s about community, after all – not secret societies!