One of the quirks of being a priest is that my work is often outside of the church. Whether I am meeting a newcomer for coffee, catching up with a parishioner over lunch, or visiting someone in the hospital, I am more often out in the community than sitting in the church office. The challenge with that mode of operating is that I sometimes find myself with an extra hour here or there between commitments. So I often take work with me – catching up on emails, reading for a class or sermon, or doing some writing.
Lately, that pattern has meant having all kinds of interesting encounters. The other day I met someone who was a former parishioner of my church while buying a cup of coffee. While responding to emails, someone who recognized me from barre class introduced herself to me, realizing we had never formally introduced ourselves, but that she had seen me around town several times. While doing some writing while waiting for routine maintenance in the local car dealership, one of the salesmen came over to say he was one of my neighbors and we had not yet met. Sometimes you even have to leave your home to meet those closest to your home!
Research tells us in order to grow your church community, you need to get off the property. If you want to get to know the people who are not joining you every Sunday, you need to go where they are on the other days of the week. Of course, just drinking coffee does not mean you will magically meet people – you do actually have to engage others in conversation – even if it is about car brand loyalty, or your favorite new drink on the coffee menu. Getting off the property allows us to meet people where they are – and to see God in all the wonderful, myriad places God likes to hang out. Though there are other ways to do that in reverse – holding a Fiber Festival, welcoming a school to your property – you really have to do both to have those God-moments.
All that being said, I confess, I sometimes have an easier job of talking about God. The collar is dead giveaway. But my invitation to you is the same. Take a moment to get out of your bubble. Go to an event to which you wouldn’t normally go, linger in a coffee shop you do not regularly frequent, or get even more bold, and take your committee meeting off campus and go public. If you need some Hickory Neck gear to break the ice, I can help you out. But my guess is you will find those God moments just by being you. I cannot wait to hear about who you meet and what you learn!