Thursday, July 13, 2006

An Interesting Experience

Last night, at Otter Creek's weekly fellowship dinner, I sat at a table with 5 open seats for 30 minutes by myself. Four people talked to me in passing.

It was a very interesting experience.


Tony Arnold said...

I suggest showering.

Or maybe it was the "Emergent" t-shirt that warned people off.

Seriously, I am sure glad you were not a visitor or new member. I wasn't there last night or I would have sat down. But that wouldn't have helped in attracting others I dare say.


Anonymous said...

Explain why it's "interesting".

Karen said...

It's an experience I've had as well. I've never used "interesting" to describe it, though. Just depressing, or discouraging.

Scott Freeman said...

Dude, that's a bummer. I take it that is somewhat of an atypical reception there, right?

Phil said...

Tony, I shower once a week whether I need it or not.

Daren, it's interesting because of Tony's last paragraph. I don't know if people assumed my family was coming or that I had friends coming to join me or what.

Karen, it was depressing at first, but then I became interested in it as an experiment so it became much less personal.

Scott, Otter Creek is an interesting place. If you know someone there, it can be very welcoming, because they will help you into their circle. If not, it can be more difficult. I hate to call it clique-ish, but people tend to stick in their groups.

Clarissa said...

That happened a lot to us last summer -- It would be me, Jaz, and Jamie, and I'd have Chloe with me. Rob couldn't usually get there in time for dinner, and the other kids went to sit with friends. I always hoped it didn't faze Jaz or Jamie. Don't know, they never really let on. Sometimes we would be joined by others, but usually only if I REALLY encouraged them to sit with us.
But again, people might have avoided my table assuming the other 4 members of my family were coming to join me. I tried to look at it that way. But it was somewhat frustrating.

Anonymous said...

That is interesting esp. because you know people there. I went to Otter Creek for a year and could never get "in." Everybody seemed happy and looked like they had a bunch of friends, but a new face is lost in the crowd. It's disappointing and frustrating and although Tony points out that it's a good thing you were not a visitor or a new member, I guarantee the same thing happens to them.

Larry said...

If it's not a "showering," or an "Emergent T-shirt" issue, you may be single, male, and over 60.

This experience is an ongoing occurrence for many in the church. Many looking for fellowship might as well mail in their contributions, because they are ignored way to often by many in the church.

I have observed the lack of friendliness in many churches, but don't really understand why. It often seems the "regular" members are overly pre-occupied with their own little groups, and content with the status quo.

Tony Arnold said...

I love OC but it definitely has too much of a clique behavior although I won't pretend that is OC only. But we claim to be open and welcoming and Christian so we have claimed a higher standard, therefore it is fair for others to judge us by that standard.

I have been at OC since I was 10, except for a few years, and have experienced some very painful rejection.

I still find my family excluded from certain groups from time to time, people that have only been there 5-10 years but have set up their cliques.

But I bet there are people that would claim that I was not warm and welcoming too and I would be surprised to hear it. I try to be open but I am sure I fail too often. Most of the time it is because I am just horrible at remembering names and I am embarrassed to show it. I have finally gotten to the point where I know that appearing to be stupid is better than appearing to be cold and closed.

Humans are a strange creature, thank God for grace and reconciliation.


DB Carden said...


You are the person I talk to most at church and most of that is electronically. I just accept the fact that I do not have deep relationships at church, even in my small group. Sure, I share with them during those meetings but that is about it. Beyond that it is a "hi, how ya doing?" and not expecting a deep or necessarily sincere response from anyone.

I am sure the proper thing for me to do is pursue that connection on my own, but that is difficult when there is no reciprocity. Oh well, I guess I chalk it up to my lack of social graces.

The elders have made this a priority from time to time over the 9 years we have been there but I have not seen much change. They certainly don't have an easy job do they?

Justin said...


when I get back in town, you and I should go get coffee or dinner or something. We need to chat more than just hello at church or via gmail messenger.

Oh, and I'd love your opinion on some of my recent blog posts. I'm struggling with some questions, and I enjoy your opinions.

Thomas+ said...

Hey Phil who I love, in a Philos sort of way.

I am fully aware of what it means to be excluded. Please. But, let me make a comment. Your experience was just as much your "fault" as the "fault" of others. You had just as much power to walk over and sit with someone else as they had to sit with you.

This is the same for all newcomers and visitors to churches. For some reason, we feel like others have to go out of their way to reach out to us, while we just sit back and wait for the love.

I think it is because some of us think that "they" are the Body of Christ, so "they" need to welcome me. However, when most of us go into a church, ours or a new one, "we" are just as much the Body as "they" are, so maybe we should welcome "them."

Yes, I am aware of hospitality and its importance. But, the Christian call to be hospitable cuts both ways. I am called to be hospitable wherever I am, and that includes when I am among people who are disregarding me.

Besides, having 30 minutes alone to eat sounds pretty good. :)


Phil said...

Oh, I totally agree Thomas+ with the responsibility on my part and under normal circumstances I would have just got up and moved, but then it became an experiential experiment to see what would happen.

And your "we/they" is right on point.

Anonymous said...

I'm not even sure how I got to your blog but I found it interesting because what you have described happens to me everytime that I attend church.
It's around 800 members so identifying visitors is kinda difficult but I've been there for 25 years.
To make a long story short, I havent been much in ten years. I was part of a men's group that met on Wed. nights. I befriended someone who was kinda street-wise and who cursed. I overlooked the cursing because it was kinda from his Boston street culture. Anyway, the guy who hosted the group got angry with me and told me to leave. Later, he told me that he couldn't risk being friends with me. That really hurt! The guy that wasn't a christian is still my friend. The host is now an elder and I won't speak to him. By the way, I was disfellowshipped at the age of 15 after trying to kill myself. It was C of C , so my feelings about rejection might be rather subjective.
Did you speak to anyone? Did you look for strangers? Did you think to get up and move to another table that wasn't full?
Maybe your feelings were on your sleeve that night.
If I expected to be greeted by anyone every time that I went to church, I'd never ever go again.
Just my thoughts.

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