In sacrament meeting last Sunday our stake president surprised us with an announcement regarding our February ward conference:
We’re having an open house.
In light of all the tumultuous press the Church has gotten lately, our stake leadership feels prompted to have us invite non-member friends and neighbors to our 3-hour block. In the first hour we’ll have sacrament meeting as usual, probably with strategically-themed talks on what the Church is all about and hymns that drive home who we worship. In the second hour, instead of the normal Gospel Doctrine lesson, there’ll be refreshments in the cultural hall followed by an open, frank Q&A session in the chapel. Priesthood and RS will also be supplanted by further Q&A and who-knows-what-else. All wards in the stake are involved and our ward has been given the challenge to bring 100 non-members.
I’m torn about this. The endeavor could either be productive, inconsequential or disastrous (I think the smart money is on inconsequential). One of my concerns is that, when word gets out to our gentile cohabitants, would it inadvertantly reach zealous opponents who might take advantage of the situation? Call the press, have a protest? Would “plants” insinuate themselves with the visitors to lob loaded, confrontational questions and make heated declarations? One might think all this is far-fetched, but after the dramatic fallout we’ve seen so far, who’s to say? And with eight wards in the stake, the risk is exponential.
On the other hand, the control of hand-picking invitees inherently filters out the riffraff. I’m sure those who do invite their non-member friends will be extremely selective, probably having already had some previous discussions about the Church.
Sometimes I feel like the Church suffers from schizophrenia. While the message over the pulpit seems to be, “We follow the Lord and His leaders with no apologies,” we still really, really want to be liked. Unfeigned misanthrope that I am, I’m in the former camp. Like me, don’t like me, whatev.
Nevertheless, I admit it will be interesting to share the pews with outsiders– more interesting than the usual ward conference. The Mrs. and I haven’t come up with any candidates for the little experiment yet. We do have some gay friends (alas, all men– no hot lesbians to show off), but will probably pass them by and instead swoop down upon a vanilla family.
I’ll let you know how it goes– that is, if you don’t read about it in the papers first.