Warmly welcoming worshipers, visitors, and pilgrims
The welcome, or lack of it, that people get when they walk through our doors is of the greatest importance. First impressions last and colour peoples attitudes for the future.
We have a great team of people who welcome those who come to each of the Sunday masses but we need more. This role is really the most public facing and one of the most crucial of all the ministries in the church.
We try to provide a welcome online and through our publications, but nothing can replace a human welcome and especially a genuine and warm one. If you feel able to help with this ministry click here to access the volunteer form and let us know. We need more welcomers of all ages for all the masses but especially for the Saturday evening vigil mass.
There is always a tension between making people welcome before mass which generally involves talking, and the silence and recollection others wish for, as they pray before mass. This is inevitable and just has to be accepted. One tried and tested way to try to minimise the clash however is to create more of a defined narthex at the entrance area of the church.
Many early churches had areas like this which were courtyards for gathering and welcome. We cannot build a courtyard out into south street, but maybe we could think about how we organise the area at the west end of the church to create at least a "psychological narthex" as an area for welcoming.
This would be the best place for the baptismal font. We have a lovely baptistry but it is simply too small for most of todays baptisms and to have a larger welcome area like a narthex with the font in the middle would help with welcoming people both humanly and sacramentally. This font could also function as the holy water stoop.
Below is a mock of of what this might look like. As part of thinking about the best use of space we should look at whether we can remove the white wooden inner porch to give us more room. If we were to do so we would have to increase the draught proofing and thermal efficiency of the old inner and outer entrance doors, as the reason for the white porch is to help with the retention of heat. Given the advances in technology today, we should be able to achieve the same or greater thermal efficiency without the inner porch. The mock up is shown with the porch still in place.
The idea of a narthex is that it makes a division between the welcoming area and the praying area. The boundary making the point of division between these areas needs thinking about. It could be made of plants and / or trellises, it could be a head hight wrought iron grill with gates, it could be marked by display boards possibly movable, or it could have no physical marking at all. Creative ideas welcome.
Another element which we hope to introduce quite soon to make access easier for all, is an automatic opener and closer on the door below the tower, which we use most to come in and out of church. This will make it easier for people with prams or in wheelchairs or with their hands full, and in the winter it will help keep the warmth in by avoiding the door being left open.
Our beautiful but too small baptistry is shown below. If we were to make a new font, the upper part of the existing font with a new bowl to line it could be used and a new base made to match the new altar and lectern.
One idea for how we could use the present baptistry if we were to move the font out of it, is to house a permanent display about the church, telling people about the history of the church, helping them understand what they can see in church if they are not Catholics, and helping people to be introduced to the life of the parish.
The present small baptistry could be used to house a permanent exhibition and information centre to help those coming to the church whether as visitors, pilgrims, or catholics wanting to join a parish.