Welcome! That's one of the most powerful words in any vocabulary. It connotes acceptance and goodwill, a warm embrace that highlights the fact that wherever one finds himself or herself, there could not be another place where one would desire to be. Welcome carries with it an assuring peace and tranquility that all is good, all will be alright and all will be just fine. When I was a teenager living with my mother in Sekondi-a coastal city in Ghana, there was something about welcome that meant a great deal to me. I had an aunt who always made me feel welcome in her home in Accra-the big city. Although I had scores of relatives in that city, I rarely visited them. There was something about their type of welcome, it didn't particularly feel genuine or sincere. In a way, it felt more like being tolerated than being welcomed. That was always an awkward feeling. This past Tuesday, many of our parishioners met by Old Brick and carpooled to Lake Elkhorn Middle School. One parishioner walked there by herself and some also drove there by themselves. We joined other ladies from Unitarian Universalist Congregation-which also supports Lake Elkhorn. At about 7:45 a.m. we all lined up on the walkway with some parents and siblings and welcomed the students back to school with clapping and shouts of "welcome" "welcome back to school" "have a great school year" among others. One of our parishioners-Patricia Fanning, actually had a bell, which she rang to the admiration and surprise of the students. Some of the students were enthusiastic about returning to school, others not so much. Some of the students were excited to see us clap them back to school, others, not so much. Some of the students said 'thank you', others said not a word but simply walked past. For us, it was simply a joy to welcome them back to school and to wish them the very best for the coming year. For us at Christ Church, this Sunday is our Annual Parish Picnic. The purpose of this parish picnic is to celebrate our parish and to welcome everyone back to Church after a summer break which, I believe, has been full of the adventures of travel, vacationing with loved ones, taking a well-deserved rest and relaxation. It is my hope that you found a deeper sense of connection and appreciation in all the activities with which you filled your calendar this summer, and that through your experience of each of them, you feel very much renewed for the coming year. As we welcome each to the beginning of the new program year, may we do so with excitement and gratitude for each other, for the blessing of this community of faith and for all the exciting programs that are meant to shape our faith, our lives, our relationship with one another and ultimately with God. I am reminded of a story in Luke's gospel "When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing." Luke 9:11. Jesus not only welcomes us, he tells us about the kingdom, heals us and models for us the ways of blessedness. It is my hope that the many and varied offerings at Christ Church will help us capture within us God's sense of welcome, God's teaching in the good news and God's act of selfless love. May today be a great start to a wonderful and fulfilling year. Welcome!