As a Membership Professional I am often asked “how can we be more welcoming?” It’s a complex question that will always have an answer because I truly believe we can never be TOO welcoming! Since I arrived, I have helped implement many small, but impactful changes.
In 2019, I worked with the Auction and Facilities Teams to put accessible doors as the Fund-a-Need. Thanks to so many generous donors, we were able to fit all the doors we were hoping and more. We also have worked to make sure halls, aisles and bathrooms are easily assessable. One huge benefit of our Sanctuary is that we do not have pews. This allows us to have those in wheelchairs tell us where they want to sit and we can simply remove a chair.
Speaking of restrooms, have you noticed the sign hung up between the restrooms in the Sanctuary? It says those restrooms are Gender Affirming, letting all those who come in know they should use the restroom they feel most comfortable in. We also note there is a private, all gender restroom in the administration building. Thank you to amanda alice uluhan and Dianne Upton for getting a new, more inclusive all gender sign.
Also in 2019, we began encouraging the wearing of pronoun buttons and using pronouns from the pulpit. Aimee Woolwine designed the buttons we use and can still be made by request to me at [email protected]. The buttons are a great way to let all know we care about you. This helps normalize a culture of not making assumptions about a persons gender, which is always welcoming!
At the 2019 General Assembly, I learned about the Pathway to Membership model. After working on it and talking to members about what made them feel like they finally belonged, I published a new Pathway to Membership for East Shore. This model gives people a clear direction on how to get involved. Here is what new member Janet Covin said about the process: “For someone who has decided membership is what they want, it’s a great tool to help guide them through to their goal. If someone hasn’t made a decision to become a member, but wants to engage with ESUC and the community, the Pathway is still a good tool to help the “explorer” engage in ways that meet both their needs and ultimately sets them on the path to membership – should they decide to do so later.” Since then, my version of the Pathway to Membership has been used as a resource and example of what to do for other congregations and is lifted up in the Beloved Conversations Among Membership module.
Also in the Among module is the Growth Plan I worked on with Rev. Furrer. This plan still applies to us today as a great way for us to look at ourselves on how we can be more welcoming, and also looking out to see how we can be seen.
Other great improvements to our welcoming include the Choir! Eric Lane Barnes encourages anyone who wants to sing to be involved, even if they don’t read music. The busy bags and rugs for kids in the Sanctuary is a clear, visible sign kids are welcome in this space! And our new Covenant Circles and the Daily Check-in group has been a great way for people to feel more connected and more involved.
The energy at East Shore is high, and with new changes on the horizon I have no doubt we will grow. Let’s just remember the dream of growth shouldn’t be to “save us” or get us more money, it should be because we know how great this community is and we want others to have that same experience. With that in mind we will always be welcoming new faces.
by Nicole Duff, Director of Membership Development