The place of welcome
“And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Matthew 18:5 (NIV)
Walthamstow, the area of North East London, where I lived for most of my life, is famous for a few things.
East 17 is a pop group that has sold over 18 million records worldwide. It was formed in Walthamstow, taking its name from the postcode (E17) of the area. The High Street is dominated by Walthamstow Market, which began in 1885, and is the longest street market in Europe. William Morris, the textile designer, and early leading socialist, was born in Walthamstow. The William Morris gallery in Walthamstow, was the winner of the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year, 2013.
As a place, Walthamstow has a long history: It is recorded, c1075, as Wilcumestowe, and in the Doomsday Book of 1086 as Wilcumestou. It is also noted that King John visited the area in 1213.
This history is all very interesting but it’s the name Wilcumestowe that intrigued me. It means ‘The place of welcome’. I’m not sure how well Walthamstow has lived up to the meaning of its historic name but what a lovely name for an area to have. It signified that as travellers approached they would receive a warm welcome, and for those who lived in Wilcumestowe that they should provide that warm welcome.
Isn’t that how the Christian church should be? Every local congregation should be a place of welcome to those who pass through its doors.
Jesus’ attitude is, if we welcome a child, who was regarded as having no status and was viewed as weak and a burden on society, and who had little value to the wider life of the community, then it’s as if we are welcoming him. There are many people in this world who are viewed as a burden on society, who are hurting, and in pain, who are desperately seeking solace and need a place of welcome.
Can our churches be places of welcome? Can we welcome people as they come to our door as if it were Jesus himself paying a visit? One of the greatest things a new person can hear as they come into our congregations is, ‘Hello, you are very welcome here.’
Father, thank you for welcoming us into your family; please help us to extend a warm welcome to all those you bring into contact with our local churches. May our congregations be known as places of welcome. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Study by Barry Robinson
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a minister in Grace Communion International
and Regional Pastor for Southern England.
Grace Communion International central London
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
Local congregational contact:
Word of Life contact: