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Welcome voters to your church

Polly House
November-December 2016

Election Day at churches that serve as polling places can be busy and sometimes disruptive. It also offers an opportunity to extend hospitality to people waiting in long lines.

Whether or not local election commissions allow congregations to offer anything to voters who come to their buildings, churches can be welcoming sites.

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At First United Methodist Church in Anchorage, Alaska, administrative assistant Jennifer Miller answers more questions and talks to more people on Election Day than usual. She says it is all part of being a downtown church and part of the community.

Minnetonka United Methodist Church may be among the favorite polling places in Minnesota. "We do an ‘election cafe' at major elections," said the Rev. Jeanine Alexander, lead pastor. "We have free food and drinks for all the voters and a whole lot of hospitality! We are known for it. The food is fairly elaborate — chicken wings, meatballs, nachos and all kinds of desserts.

"Elections don't interrupt our day-to-day ministry; they enhance it, because they give us the chance to offer radical hospitality."

Novi United Methodist Church in Michigan, Elm Springs Church in Arkansas and First Church in Gilbert, Arizona, all offer a variety of snacks and beverages.

"Volunteers prepare, set up and restock the refreshments," said Gilbert's Adriana Hernandez. "Additional volunteers are at the table to greet voters and thank them for voting." Being a polling place "does take additional time from the staff team who coordinates efforts on that day," she says, but that goes with event management in the life of the church."

Find more ideas for offering hospitality on Election Day.  

Elm Springs administrative assistant Mary Bowman said the church doesn't see all the extra people as a disruption. "We are excited to have visitors in the church for whatever the reason may be."

First Church in Anchorage provides coffee for the poll workers, while Duff Street Church in Clarksburg, West Virginia, hosts a bake sale on Election Day. It also allows poll workers access to the church kitchen.

The Rev. Timothy A. Kriebel, pastor of St. Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, said people who come to the church to vote don't disrupt daily church activities too much because they go in one door, through the fellowship hall, and out the back door to the parking lot.

"It's humorous to enter and exit the church a few different times on election day, because you ‘run the gauntlet' of party activists who offer you their materials multiple times, but both sides lightheartedly laugh when you say you're here to go to work."

Polly House is a freelance editor and writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. She currently serves as editorial assistant for Interpreter.