Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Riding Out the Storm

Today was a gift of shared writing by Welcome Church friends. Robin taught a wonderful class on Journal Writing and Lisa wrote the following piece to share on this blog.

Riding Out the Storm
   Story by Lisa 
October 28, 2012
She was sitting in the train station awaiting a storm. He came in passing through. He sat down, they talked. The guard of the station said they had to evacuate. There was a school quite a distance where they could go to ride out the storm. They walked for miles. Finally, they arrived and were partnered together to sleep, eat, and pass time until the storm was over.
The storm ended and he left, first out of frustration of being together for three days without the freedom to roam. She left continuing on with life. Later, they joined together. They had a lot of ups and downs dealing with their own issues in life; they parted.
They see each other in the circle they travel but have no conversation. One day they decided to speak in the presence of others during a church function in which they first met. Thus the next day she was walking down the street and he was walking around the corner. They bumped into each other. Surprised to see each other, they both had somewhere to go. They decided to join each other and together they went ???      THE END
                                                                                             May 15, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Finders Keepers...

Today I learned yet another important lesson from the folks attending our weekly teatime...the importance of being a finder, rather than a seeker.

Early in the day one person shared how he had taken the three dollars he had to buy a card for his mother in celebration of Mothers' Day this past Sunday. On his way to the store, my Welcome Church friend found fifteen dollars, and not all at once. With this newly found money, first a five dollar bill then a ten, he was able to purchase some cologne (Victoria's Secret!) for his mother to go along with the card.

Later in the day, as I was preparing to leave, one woman offered a pack of tokens that she had found to another woman, saying she had a pass and didn't need the tokens.

In each situation, there was wonderful generosity, but there was something else, too.

In each of the stories shared, there was a spirit of "finding" rather than one of "seeking."

A subtle difference, maybe, but one that comes with the expectation that the day will offer treasures just waiting to be found. A sort of openness to the many gifts around us rather than the more narrow view of "seeking" something specific, more for the self, not so sure if anything will be discovered.

Tomorrow I plan to be a "finder" and I invite you to do the same knowing that God has surely planted some treasures on our paths. But unlike the old saying "Finders keepers..." these treasures are meant to be shared.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stuck on You

After a week of bitter cold, the 32 degree temperature was a welcomed change as I prepared for Sunday worship on the Parkway. This was to be our first Sunday since Dave, a member of our volunteer clergy team, had moved to San Diego to begin a new call. Dennis was to preach, I was to preside over the sacrament of Holy Communion, Schaunel would lead us in prayer and Waverly would be our liturgist.

On the way to the Parkway Dennis called to say a pipe had frozen and burst and there was no way he could make it today.We needed a preacher, and it might even turn out to be me.

With an hour and a half to go before service, I walked around the Parkway, inviting folks and just catching up with people. One young man shared that he had been released from prison two weeks ago. He had been incarcerated  four years for selling drugs. He saw my Ecclesia cross and asked if he could get one. I placed mine on his neck with a blessing...the way we share crosses when they are requested. Later, that man would serve as our communion assistant at the service.

Soon others began to gather for worship. We set up our card table altar, cup plate, juice and wafers.

Waverly, arrived and I asked if he would be willing to preach today. "Really?" he asked. I showed him the text and it was the text that had actually moved Waverly to become involved with Welcome Church. We had a preacher!

The text, Luke 4:14-21, talked about Jesus teaching in the synagogue and quoting that beautiful text from Isaiah:
                    "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me
                    because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;
                    He has sent me to proclain release to the captives
                    and recovery of sight to the blind
                    to let the oppressed go free
                    to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor."

Waverly went on to say that we were all anointed by God, each called to proclaim the good news to one another. It was Waverly's words that prompted me to ask the group, so how many of you know that you are anointed? Slowly the hands began to go up with many sharing how they were still struggling to know what it was they have been called to do with their lives. I could feel the hope, the possibility that maybe there was something more in store for each gathered around the table today.

I moved into the next part of our worshp together, the sharing of Holy Communion. That Jesus chose to be with us in the form of bread is especially meaningful on the street and for people who have known real hunger. Nearly everyone holds out their hands to receive the wafer and the juice, the body and blood of Jesus in our midst.

And then God added and exclamation point to the good news we had just shared.

As I neared the end of the circle, one of the last to receive the sacrament was a young boy. In his excitement to take the bread, he flipped up his hand and all the hosts came flying out of the small rubbermaid container that held them. Little wafers stamped with the cross were scattered all over the mud and the grass. For a moment everyone was silent staring at the hosts and not knowing if they should be "cleaned up." But no one moved.

Finally I broke the silence, inviting folks to see these hosts as a reminder of the sacred ground upon which we worshipped. That the park was made sacred because wherever we were, God was present among us. One person smiled and said, "Hey, the birds need Jesus, too." And everyone said, "Amen!"

The next morning, as I went to put on my boots, I saw that in addition to the mud and grass of the Parkway, one of the hosts had stuck to my boot.

"Well, Jesus," I thought, "Guess we're stuck with each other, no matter what!" and I left the house with a smile.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Phoenix

Last week I was finally able to share a gift card that I had received two years ago for my installation. The card was for a wonderful spa, The Phoenix, in downtown Philadelphia. When I received it I had hoped to share it with Tina, a friend of The Welcome Church who had been going through radiation and chemotherapy for the lung cancer that eventually took her life. Though Tina never did have enough strength for us to keep our spa date before she died, she would often refer to it and smile. After Tina died last year, I put away the card, not ready to go to the spa alone.

Two months ago I came across that card while sorting through some bills. I wasn't even sure it would still be honored. I mentioned it to several of the women from The Welcome Church who agreed to a spa trip together. It took awhile, but last Friday five of us gathered for our trip to The Phoenix.

We met at 18th and Walnut, outside of the Barnes and Noble jokingly referred to as "my office."
I had made appointments for three of the women and a fourth showed up unexpectedly, willing to just wait with us if necessary. Knowing the challenges these women faced in their daily struggle for survival, I was honored that these four strong and beautiful women made such an effort to meet on time at our designated spot. I also knew that I would have included anyone who showed up, even if it meant taking out another mortgage on my house. The trust that these women showed me was priceless.

Walking the few blocks over to the spa, the experience was a cross between a school outing and an adventure on unexplored territory. For me, this was especially unexplored territory since I had never been to a spa. In fact, it was hard for me to justify a thirty minute facial that would cost $75.00, even if I was using a gift card. I didn't know how the women would react if they knew the prices involved; in addition, I didn't know how our little group would be received by the workers in the spa.

On the way over one of the women asked if she could have a pedicure instead of a facial. I was hoping the spa would let us switch because the difference in price allowed for our fourth woman to have a manicure.

The woman who asked for the switch was walking with difficulty. She was wearing boots that were not necessarily the best fit. What struck me, though, was when she told me that part of the problem was that she didn't get to take off her boots. When you slept outside, your shoes or boots sometimes stayed on all night. In some places, taking off her boots might have meant that she would wake up to find them stolen. She walked gingerly, like a child playing dress-up in her mother's high heels.

The folks at The Phoenix were gracious; not only could we make the switch from one facial to a pedicure, but they were able to do the manicure, too. Two facials, a pedicure, and a manicure,and everybody was happy. While we waited for each to be done, we shared stories, played with samples of make-up, and sipped coffee and tea. Afterwards, we shared a very late lunch and more conversation and laughter.

As I headed towards the train station thoughts of the women lingered with me like a fine perfume. They were smart and resourceful and had not been born homeless. Some were dealing with serious illnesses; others with difficult family situations. At least one with an addiction. But for several hours on Friday, we were just five women, enjoying the pampering and simply being together.

I think of The Phoenix rising out of the ashes and the resilience and courage that surrounded me in these women and I am so grateful for the gift of themselves that they shared with me last Friday in the spa.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thou Preparest A Table Before Me...

This verse from Psalm 23 kept going through my mind this past Friday as ten of us gathered to share a meal for the first meeting of "The Women of Eat, Pray, Love."
The idea for the group was born during a meal together while several women from The Welcome Church
gathered around another table--at The Olive Garden---following the movie "Eat, Pray, Love."
As most of us know, there is something so powerful about gathering around the table. Sadly, however, not everyone gets invited to the table. This is especially true for anyone experiencing homelessness.
Thanks to the generous people of Kate's Place and Project H.O.M.E., we were given a lovely space for four hours of respite to cook and share a monthly meal together.
Our first meal, prepared by R. was three courses of vegetarian Indian cuisine. Though I am not sure what the dishes were called, we were treated to a marvelous blend of rice, spinach, peppers, shallots, lentils, mango chutney, and spices whose names I can't pronounce. There was Naan, homemade apple butter, tapioca with brown sugar glaze, and rich, dark chocolate (a food group of its own!)
The table was set with various collections of tableware from my home, from Marilyn's grandmother, from Fran, Elisabeth, and a gorgeous tie-dyed piece of material lent to us by Sparkler.
Again I think of the psalm..."Thou preparest a table before me in the face of my enemies..."
As we sat together to eat, pray, and yes, loving one another, I thought about how we were gathered this night...in the face of homelessness, and uncertainty, in the face of poverty and illness, in the face of loneliness and fear...yet here we were with our cups running over.
Surely, goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives...wherever we are...dwelling in the heart of the LORD forever.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Other Side of Logan

When I arrived early at Logan Circle last Sunday, there was a disturbing sight---two men were fighting only feet away from where we do our monthly service of Holy Communion. A young priest, standing outside of the Cathedral that was our Church on Logan neighbor, called the police. The cops came and the fight was broken up---for awhile. After the police left, the fight escalated, this time with broken branches being used as weapons. Again the police were called to the scene. Meanwhile, folks were beginning to gather for the first outdoor rehearsal of our new choir. Others, who regularly hung out or slept in the Circle were drawn to the fight and police activity like flies to honey.

In the midst of the chaos, I asked Waverly Alston, our choir director, to start the rehearsal.
Our one soprano had not arrived yet, so I covered her part. Not easy with my alto voice. As we began to sing, I moved around the Circle asking others to help me out. Soon we had several more joining us in song. I then went over to a group of onlookers to the fight and asked a simple question.

"Don't you want people to know that other things happen here besides fighting?"

Heads nodded and slowly folks moved from the fight scene to the circle of singers. Waverly had us singing and swaying in four-part harmony, "God has done marvelous things...praise the LORD!"

Our choir moved into the circle that was now our worshipping congregation. Together we sang,
young and less young, some of us in clerical collars, some in stained tee shirts, sopranos and altos, tenors and one with a rich baritone voice, we sang three songs, as we were fed by Scripture and later the Bread of Life.

Afterwards, we shared socks and stories and cookies and cold drinks. Our choir had made its debut in the park!

Later I learned that one person had given up a day's work to sing with us; another, with degenertaive joint disease had walk over a mile to be there...and several others. had given up their lunch.

I am thinking of ordering tee shirts for our Welcome Church choir, something bright and practical for our outdoor worship. One choir member, my alto sidekick, thinks we should have robes. Whatever we wear, we are truly a work in progress.

Afterwards, it wasn't the fight that people were talking about; rather, it was the joy we experienced in praising God together on a glorious Fall day in the park.

God, indeed, has done marvelous things...praise the Lord, indeed!