Welcoming Visitors as Three Persons

Carmen McDowell, membership director at East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, WA, invites friends and members to welcome visitors by thinking of three personas:

"First there's the Forrest Gump introduction. Forrest wouldn't miss a beat if he inadvertently mistook a founding member for a newcomer. In that spirit, I walk right up to people and say, 'Have we met before?'

"Next there's the Colombo interview. A TV detective, he mastered the art of the curious but easy-going question. Like him, I'm a sleuth, but I don't want anyone to feel interrogated. Everyone comes to East Shore for a reason, for some need in their life that's going unmet. It's my job to help them find a way to get a foothold in this big place. I try to suggest groups or people that they might be interested in. There's a brochure on the rack in the Entry Court whose title says it all: 'How to get Involved in Programs and Activities at East Shore.'

"Finally, I try to get in touch with my inner Dorothy Hopper. So many of us were first greeted by her when we came to East Shore that first time. I've noticed how she scans the Entry Court and the coffee hour looking for newcomers standing alone. With a delicious combination of warmth and boldness she introduces herself and then connects them up to the people nearby (and) gets the conversation started. She doesn't fear questions about Unitarian Universalist belief or history, and she answers from her heart."

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

For more information contact interconnections@uua.org.

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