When supermarkets started opening up through the night in order to allow people to shop while the shelves were being stacked a whole new world of independent living became instantly accessible to people with agoraphobia, Tourette's, low self-esteem, anxiety or any other disorder which made shopping virtually impossible. One could browse for hours, checking labels or working out prices without fear of rubbing shoulders with the local hordes or having to queue at the checkout before desperately trying to pack our bags as fast as the till operative can scan our items through. We can shop in the calm, almost in private.
Which is more than can be said about many churches. While I'm all for a cheery "hello" at the door and ensuring that people can find a place to sit, and I fervently believe that welcoming people into a community of believers by making small talk over coffee is a good thing, what about those people who do their shopping in the middle of the night, the ones for whom sitting in a crowded building of people who all seem to know how to behave and when to sit and stand and say "amen" is a daunting, if not impossible, prospect? What about those who struggle to make eye contact and hate being touched...what do they do at the 'peace' when everyone mills around invading personal space willy nilly? The answer is that they stay at home, excluded from yet another part of life, that of expressing their faith or seeking support.
As churches improve their welcome to new-comers, they also need to improve their sensitivity and to allow people to find a way to be comfortable. Is there enough variety in congregation size, length of service, time of day and format or style of worship services? What could be done to include the excluded?