Six practical steps for welcoming and belonging How does that sound?


By Patrick Schmadeke
Evangelization in the world today

At the end of August, diocesan-wide Zoom sessions were held for parish and school representatives who are helping lead local efforts to more deeply integrate welcoming and belonging into their communal identities. Focusing on welcoming and belonging is not a matter of adding more to plates. Rather, it is about grounding everything we are already doing in welcoming and belonging.

What we shared with the representatives can be shared with everyone. Welcoming and belonging is not the job of a few but of the whole community. The URL and QR code at the end of this article go directly to the resources shared on Zoom. Here is a summary of part of what we shared: six possible steps that any person or community can begin.

1) Adding a petition during the prayers of the faithful at Mass is an easy and important way to involve the whole community in this welcoming and belonging effort. As Pope Francis conveyed at World Youth Day in Lisbon, all are welcome in the life of the Church.


2) Welcoming newcomers at Mass. Warm gestures that greet people in an inviting way at the door is a good start. Beginning Mass with everyone greeting each other is a way to acknowledge the community that has gathered. Recognizing everyone around us during the sign of peace also builds community. Finally, during the announcements, express specific words of greeting to the newcomers: “if you are looking for a parish home, we want you here.” Finally, we can all be intentional in starting a conversation with people we notice at Mass but haven’t met before.

3) Social media is an effective tool to reach those inside and outside our communities. One parish in the diocese takes a picture of new members and includes a brief bio of the person or family. This is a way to express welcome to the newcomer. Social media has a vast reach. Showcasing the face of the community to the wider world may help attract more people to the parish.

4) We have discovered that small groups cultivate belonging in our communities. It is often possible to belong to communities at the surface level, even in an anonymous way. Small groups are a great way to gather around the table with one another and bring faith into everyday life. No one has to have all the answers. We all just put Jesus at the center. With that foundation, things have a way of taking off.

5) The diocesan Liturgy office developed a parish accessibility survey that helps communities assess auditory, mobility, visual and other considerations. A parish council, staff or group of volunteers can take up the task of such an assessment tool and then act upon the findings. Here is the link to that assessment: 3vcc676e

6) Finally, we will grow in welcoming and belonging if we treat this as a matter of integration. If we treat it as a check list then the effort will fizzle away. One way to train new habits is to add welcoming and belonging as a regular agenda item of any council, board or committee that meets over the next year. Imagine being accountable to this question at every meeting: “what have I done this week to deepen a sense of welcoming and belonging in our community, especially to newcomers or people I don’t ordinarily interact with?”

To help us to focus on welcoming and belonging, we have been drawing on the image of the tent from the book of Isaiah in which God says, “enlarge the space of your tent.” Enlarging the tent of our communities is not something we will always feel comfortable doing: God may be asking our communities to evolve. In the midst of opening ourselves up to new things, we ask the Holy Spirit, “the Lord and giver of life,” to breathe life in our communities and propel us along this journey of welcoming and belonging.

URL: https://davenportdiocese. org/zoom-resources

(Patrick Schmadeke is director of evangelization for the Diocese of Davenport.)

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