Making the Stranger Welcome

by Liz Yeats

When Friends across the continent look back on the 1990’s will they say, “We were blessed with an influx of newcomers, seekers from other traditions, who found an openness in Quaker worship and a faith community in Friends meetings, both small and large?” Or will they say, “we had many visitors, but few who stayed.”

When the stranger appears at your meetinghouse door, what is your meeting doing to help that seeker know us as Friends? When meeting for worship ends, will that seeker become engaged in a process of learning about Quakerism and your monthly meeting community? What follows are seven good ideas that have worked, gleaned from monthly meeting newsletters. We hope they will help your meeting make the stranger welcome.

  1. Assign one member of the meeting to be the greeter at the door of the meeting room, another to answer questions and welcome newcomers at the end of meeting.
  2. Have name tags for all regular attenders and encourage all to wear them each First Day. Encourage visitors to make and wear name tags by supplying materials.
  3. Consider sending a short note to seekers after they have come to worship once or twice (see sample below).
  4. Provide regular adult First Day School, Forums or Discussion Groups about Quakerism. Abington MM had a series entitled “Walk in the Light Wherever You May Be,” focusing on topics such as Using the Light in Your Life, The Light At Home, and The Healing Light. Announce that such sessions are open to all, no matter how experienced in Quakerism.
  5. Provide child care for all adult sessions, so that parents can attend. Begin with a pot-luck or dessert to help new folks feel welcome and build community.
  6. Use your newsletter to make the workings of the meeting more apparent:
    • Print “who to call with questions,” including names and phone numbers of committee clerks (Albany MM).
    • Describe officers and committees of the meeting and what they do (Kansas City MM).
    • Print resource material for upcoming discussions (Evanston MM).
    • Unravel Quaker acronyms such as AFSC, FCNL, FWCC, FGC (Albuquerque MM).
  7. Provide spiritual formation and nurture groups for all to go deeper. Friendship Monthly Meeting has “Covenant Groups,” ongoing spiritual nurture groups that meet every month or so for worship and study. All attenders are invited to be part of a group each September.

Sample Note

Dear Friend,

We who worship with Binghamton Community Friends would like to thank you for worshipping with us. We hope this finds you well and enjoying a life that touches peace, joy, and the hope of the season.

We still meet from 10:30 am to 11:30 am on Sundays and we welcome you to visit whenever you’re able to attend.

    God bless thee!

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