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Can you help welcome the stranger to your church?

Can you help welcome the stranger to your church, asks Rebecca Bretherton.

In an East Anglian tourist information office I asked “Where is the local Catholic church?” The staff couldn’t help: they kindly offered me other churches but didn’t know there was a Catholic church.

So do visitors know where to find your parish?  

We want to share God’s Good News with others. “Welcoming the stranger” is not an obscure message in the Bible; it’s God’s message. In Matthew 25:35, Jesus reminds us that he is with the stranger when he says: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Who uses tourist information offices? Tourists obviously, but even if you are not living in a holiday destination, your parish community will have visitors. People who are working away from home; people who are visiting family; or people relocating to the area. People outside their normal routine have an opportunity to consider an encounter with Jesus Christ in your community.

How do you invite people to join you? Tourist Information Offices are often run by volunteers or are merged into other local services, so information can get lost. At hotels and B&Bs and holiday parks, the information can become out-of-date or disappear. 

This month’s challenge: June is a good time to review what is waiting for summer visitors.  Volunteer to visit your local tourist information service and visitor accommodation on behalf of your parish. Maybe a few of you could work together. Speak to the staff and ask what would help them. Here are some suggestions:

*Providing a leaflet or invitation sheet makes it easy for businesses to display your invitation; 

*Posters for your parish summer events could find a place on notice boards;

* A greetings card from local Catholics for staff thanking them for the work they do;

* Tell them that you and your parish are praying for everyone working in the hospitality industry. Then make sure you do so!

Hebrews 13:1 — Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.