Story of the “Welcome Your Neighbors” Sign
The “Welcome Your Neighbors” sign grew out of an idea at Immanuel Mennonite Church, in Harrisonburg, VA. As they put it on the original Facebook page, the sign comes from their deep rooting in faith:
We choose to reach out to our neighbors and neighborhoods, welcome those who come from different backgrounds and places, and practice hospitality through the open doors of our communities.
At Immanuel Mennonite Church, our motto is “Real people following Jesus’s radical call to love and service.” Posting signs is a way to show our deep commitment to sharing God’s love in the world. We encourage you to join us in welcoming the stranger, getting to know your neighbors, hosting and being hosted, reaching out across divides, providing shelter, seeking justice, and sharing love with friend and stranger.
In August 2015, pastor Matthew Bucher wanted to share a simple message with the neighborhood around his church in Harrisonburg, VA. In the midst of a national dialogue that was strikingly negative about immigrants, Bucher joined with his church to put a hand-painted sign saying, “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” in the building’s front yard, in the three main languages spoken in the neighborhood.
Over the following months, Bucher shared the message with other local Mennonite pastors, and together they created the first design for the tri-color yard sign. The sign, designed to be brightly visible during campaign-sign season, spread locally around Harrisonburg as more people decided to share the message of welcome. Bucher and other members of Immanuel Mennonite Church printed up 200 signs to sell at the Virginia Mennonite Relief sale and started a Facebook page to help get signs to those in other locations. They also posted the PDF free on their website.
Since that time, interest has continued to grow. The original idea sparked many people in many places to print signs and become local points of connection for those willing to make this simple statement of welcome. From its beginning in a conversation on a Sunday morning, to its global reach today, the movement serves as a tangible signpost encouraging us to reach out to our neighbors, build bridges of connection, and practice hospitality through the open doors of our communities.