Welcome While Under Construction

January 31, 2017

“No trespassing” is usually posted to keep people out, but what if it weren’t? What if it meant, “Welcome into this trespass-free haven”?

I’ve been banned from entering my church building since June — I, and everyone else.

Decades ago, my husband and I bought our house within a couple of miles of the stake center, anticipating countless drives to and from. Sunday services. Choir practices. Ward and stake councils and planning. Twelve planned years of weekday early-morning (so early!) seminary classes. Weekly youth activities. Relief Society, priesthood quorum, and ward-wide socials. Firesides. Community public affairs events. Weddings. Funerals …

But that stake center is undergoing renovation, so the only souls traversing its site are those stepping in construction boots. To set foot on the church property, for now, means trespassing.

Our temporary building is newer, fresher than our own, but less familiar — and less convenient. Instead of my six-minute dash to church (seven or eight if traffic and lights conspire against me), I’m driving at least forty minutes (up to seventy-five minutes for weeknight activities) — each way .

I’m not the only one who can’t wait to get back into our building. When we moved everything out in June — emptying all closets, cupboards, and corners — we expected to return before Christmas. (Latest projections estimate sometime in February. We’ll see …)

For some newer members, returning to our ward’s home might feel less like a physical homecoming and more like another stage of reshuffling. At the beginning of January, the stake realigned boundaries within several wards; our ward benefitted from the blessing of expanded ward borders. We’re delighted by the influx of added ward family members to embrace and call our own!

Transitions toward becoming “no more strangers and foreigners” to one another “but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” — no matter how welcome — can feel uncomfortable (Ephesians 2:19). Favorite pews require shuffling. Unfamiliar faces require memorizing (a frustrating, often embarrassing struggle with my mild but problematic face blindness). Visiting Teaching routes require revision. It feels awkward at first. 

Almost as awkward as this photo. In months of driving past my stake center’s in-progress renovation, only twice did a red light allow me to stop and snap a picture. It wasn’t until I returned home hours later that I saw the image and laughed aloud, slightly horrified by the angle I captured: Visitors welcome. No trespassing.

“No trespassing” is usually posted to keep people out, but what if it weren’t? What if it meant, “Welcome into this trespass-free haven”?

What if such a sign meant, “Within these walls, you are welcome to the safety of a place and people who won’t trespass Jesus’ greatest commandments”? Our ward (and personal) construction blueprints ought to read “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22: 37, 39).

Cling to all hope, ye who enter here!

When a building bears the words The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, those of us who call that building our church home ought to exemplify the Savior’s open arms — wherever we may be. Reading the words of that name on the building (and writing them in our hearts) ought to mean “Welcome. No trespassing happens here, because you — dear visitor, and you, dear investigator, and you, dear newly-realigned ward member, and you, newly-moved-in ward member, and you, old-timer who belonged to this congregation more than half a century ago — you all belong, and one cannot trespass where one is welcomed by all.”

 

How have you welcomed “no more strangers” (or been welcomed by “fellowcitizens”) when you relocated or underwent ward reconstruction?

2 Comments

  1. Lynn

    January 31, 2017

    I’m not sure if this is an allusion to our current president or not. I hope not; if it is, it’s interesting to me that there weren’t demonstrations when Obama did the same thing in 2011. (Oh wait – the public wasn’t informed of his action in 2011). And Clinton before him issued a similar ban. Where was the outrage?
    A change in our ward boundaries landed us in a ward with easily 85% under the age of 35 and a sprinkling of a few couples over the age of 55. It was uncomfortable for awhile but what a difference when,as one in the older age group, I took the initiative to reach out to those amazing younger members – both sisters and brothers and forgot about differences. I am crazy about them.
    It’s been a long, long delayed process waiting for the Idaho Falls temple renovation to be completed. Can’t wait to be back there and no – it’s not because of distance.
    It’s where my heart is and where I’ve received the comfort of personal revelation in a very real, physical manner.
    But that’s different than a remodeled ward bldg – I know. But the yearning is the same.
    Just a smattering of random thoughts your post generated.
    Thank you

  2. Teresa TL Bruce

    January 31, 2017

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lynn. One of the greatest blessings I’ve found as a Relief Society sister is the irrelevance of age in forging friendships. When I was younger I felt a little awed by older sisters who treated me as an equal. As my age has shifted into a bit higher range, I’ve found myself learning from and relating to sisters of all ages.

    I didn’t intend this post to allude to political circumstances. (My own feelings are too conflicted to share them with the eloquence others express.) This post is an extension of my feelings regarding the temporary displacement from “my” building, the blessings (and tiny, also temporary discomforts) of blending a new ward family, and the opportunity/responsibility to keep the Savior’s commandments uppermost in welcoming those around me.

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