In local Baptist churches when new members are welcomed in (generally during a Communion Service) the minister represents the whole fellowship by giving 'the right hand of fellowship'. It's a public welcome into a very significant group of people who are not only your new church family but fellow ministers in 'the priesthood of believers'.
Today, Carol and I were received into membership at Histon Baptist Church, near where we now live. Together with another couple (from Canada) we were invited to stand at the front by the minister, Ron Day. As we were getting to our feet there was a loud noise from a severely disabled young man in a wheel-chair near the front of the church. The minister interpreted his interjection as an offer of help. 'Yes,' he said to Russell the wheel-chair bound man. 'You can help give a welcome to our new members.' His carer carefully wheeled Russell alongside us at the front. Ron spoke to us and moved along the line with words for each as he shook hands. 'Now', he said, 'Russell who is one of our members would like to welcome you too. You had better move to him'. Russell, wracked by involuntary movements, offered his twisted left hand to each of us in turn.
It was a profoundly inclusive moment. Russell and Jenny (also in a wheel chair) are there every Sunday. This one simple gesture with Russell ensured we all understood more of what it means to belong to a church family where everyone counts, and a priesthood where everyone can share in ministry.
I shall never forget his left hand of fellowship!
Sunday, June 15, 2014
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Now that's the church! Thanks for sharing this warm story.
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