Churches are one of the few remaining places where you are likely to be known, even as a guest. Especially in those established community churches, your name may be familiar before you ever walk through the door, like it or not.
I spent yesterday morning working in our church’s urban garden with a young woman who had been introduced to me in worship just the day before by one of the congregation’s great community pillars (and chief social butterfly).
“This is Melinda Johnson (not her real name). Her grandparents were charter members here! Her dad was a teacher, yada yada yada. . . ” and she was off.
But talking to Melinda yesterday, she was a bit baffled by the introduction. She never even gave her last name, and yet our community pillar already knew it and knew her family history, even though Melinda had never met our community pillar before.
This feels like a holdover from a role established mainline churches used to play as community institutions where everybody knew your name simply because you lived in that neighborhood. Now it’s more your social network, and your social network may have nothing to do with where you actually live.
I wonder how much of that role was valuable and how much it suffocated people.