Signs of the times invite church-goers to chuckle – Flo Johnston

Flo Johnston
Flo Johnston

I’ve seen no studies on whether or not church signs help increase attendance at Sunday services, but there’s no doubt they attract attention and entertain. Here are some samples from an online listing of church signs from around the country:

Lutheran: Jesus Is Coming. Look Busy.

United Methodist: Too Cold To Change Sign. Message Inside.

Presbyterian: God Wants Spiritual Fruits Not Religious Nuts.

Anglican: Dear Christian, Some People Are Gay. Get Over It. Love, God.

Baptist: Church Parking Only. Violators Will Be Baptized.

My all-time favorite church sign popped up at a United Methodist Church in Durham several years ago. A new minister arrived on moving day in June and on his way into the church stuck up a two-word sign: SINNERS WELCOME.

You might think folks living in this suburban neighborhood would welcome knowing some new fellow-travelers might accompany them on their journey through this life, but it actually created such a furor that the UMC district superintendent sent word to the gutsy new pastor that it might be a good idea to remove said sign.

It seems the D.S. had received several distressed calls from picky little ladies, one of whom suggested such a sign might attract “the wrong kind of people” to this quiet, middle-class neighborhood. After all, this fine congregation already included “the best folks in town,” a caller said.

All this happened so fast that before the newspaper photographer could drive to the church, the pastor had removed his sign.

Four years later, when the pastor was ready to move to a new assignment, I called to ask what he planned to do with the infamous sign. (The devil made me do it. But since we had become friends, I wasn’t afraid I would offend.)

He said he took a long last look when he removed the sign from a back shelf in the closet and tossed it into the trash. Not a good way to get off on the right foot, he said.

Although this next sign was a quasi-religious one displayed in the front yard of a devout Christian during the Christmas season, it did provoke a smile. Right there in front of all kinds, sizes and shapes of blow-up yard art of Santa, Rudolph, reindeer, elves, fireplaces and hanging stockings was a sign that said “Keep Christ in Christmas.”

Well, OK, to be fair, there was a manger scene over to one side.

There’s a Presbyterian church in Myrtle Beach that every year on “Biker Weekend” puts out a sign inviting bikers to have Saturday lunch in the church’s front yard.

And over the years when the Gay Pride parade comes to Durham, Mt. Calvary United Methodist on Trinity Avenue and Watts Street Baptist on Watts Street put out signs inviting marchers to stop along the parade route to pick up a cool bottle of water in the name of Jesus and to attend church on Sunday.

Prayer vigils

The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham has set two prayer vigils to celebrate the lives of two victims of violence in the city.

A birthday celebration and vigil will be held at 5:30 p.m. today, May 24, at 2500 E. Main St., for Carrie Denise (Nook) Watkins, who was fatally shot July 18.

She is remembered for her joyful and can-do spirit and her love of family and friends.

The Rev. Dorothy Clark of Change Paths Ministry will lead the vigil in a time of reflection and shared memories.

Family and friends of La’vante Biggs will gather at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 27, at East Durham Park, 2500 E. Main St. for a vigil to celebrate his life.

Biggs was killed Sept. 5, 2015. In holding the vigil on his 23rd birthday, his family and friends seek to remember his great love and affection, his clown-like antics, his laugh and his incredible resolve.

The Rev. Tammy Redman of Sanctuary Outreach Ministry and Wilma Liverpool will lead a time of reflection and shared memories.

UU presentation

People interested in the African-American role in Unitarian Universalism are invited to a video/lecture presentation at Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 907 Garrett Road, Durham, at 7 p.m. today, May 24.

The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, president of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, CA, and professor of Unitarian Universalist Ministry and Heritage will give the presentation with discussion to follow.

The event is made possible by ERUUF’s multicultural team that offers classes, films, workshops and discussion in support of the larger fellowship’s commitment to racial equity and inclusion.


StepUp leaders will give an update on their work at the May Community Luncheon Roundtable at noon Thursday, May 25, at Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church, 107 N. Driver St. Lunch from CORE Catering is free and all are welcome.

Since its launch in 2015, StepUp Durham has helped more than 100 Durham residents find quality jobs through its Employment Training Workshops and network of more than 80 local employers.

Send your favorite church signs to Flo Johnston at Or phone 910-361-4135.