Welcome (Back) Sunday
Among the many amazing and powerful traditions that are a part of the life of Rye Presbyterian Church, I have long protested the name “Welcome Back Sunday” when referring to the first Sunday after Labor Day. Despite my own enjoyment of the quieter summer months here without evenings full of meetings, I cannot endorse the idea that worship is not a part of life during the summer. Yet, the practice of a summer absence that merits a “welcome back” remains a part of life here, though less so, especially now that the sanctuary is air-conditioned and summer church school is in session.
But the name has proved resilient. “Rally Day,” which many other churches call the Sunday in question, has never been used here to my knowledge, and sounds a bit more like a NASCAR event rather than a way to talk about worship and a picnic. It, too, carries the connotation that come September we all need rallying from our pagan summer ways. “Kick Off Sunday,” as we tried at one time, connected our life together as a church a bit too closely to the NFL season. So we’ve settled for “Fall Festival Sunday.” “Meh.” as they say. It’s OK. I remain open to better ideas.
So here is one. What about just calling it “Welcome Sunday.” Yes, of course we welcome any and all of the 1,150 members of this church to come and be a part of the festivities of that morning: worship outside under the tent, a brass quartet, the start of Fall Sunday School for children, and a day where “communion” in worship extends into communion over a wonderful lunch together, complete with a visit from the ice cream truck.
But beyond being welcome, how about we make it a day where we extend a welcome to others in the community? New families have moved into your neighborhoods throughout the summer – invite them to church! Older friends have expressed curiosity about that church you go to… invite them! What better day to do so? What better way to live out our calling to be ambassadors of the faith, and to love our neighbors as ourselves?
Brothers and sisters, welcome (back) … and welcome!