Gathered around the sofas of a Micah church, nine people – some newly housed and some not yet in housing–met recently to talk about their lives as a community. Two years ago, a small Bible study and worship service began after a Sunday morning breakfast in the church. Ever since, the gathering has been driven by folks who had slept outside the night before and who arrived with most of their belongings in tow. It soon outgrew its meeting space and had to move to a larger space, finally landing in the parish hall of the same church.
And then COVID happened.
As all church leaders began the work of reimagining who we are in times of exile, the small group of Micah neighbors continued to meet, socially distanced and gathering in hotel parking lots. They met to share a bite of food and to check in with each other. After years of sitting together and learning from one another, a group of leaders began to emerge, and they returned to those same blue sofas of the Welcome Center where their community began.
Sandwiches in hand, the conversation ranged – who are we? Who do we want to be and how to do we go forward? The leaders spoke passionately to each other of their journeys. You never think you will be homeless they shared. In fact, one man commented, “if you had asked me if I was homeless when I was, I would have told you I wasn’t, because I was looking for work – this was a temporary moment. If you are homeless you have given up.”
Micah’s group of newly housed and unhoused people know many truths. They are wise teachers. They know what it is like to lose everything and continue to push forward. They know what it is like to have to disconnect from family and friends who are still caught in cycles of addiction, even if it means you go it alone. They have decided to call what we are doing The Micah Street Church because it mirrors their street families, a place of connection and support. Street church they said, is flexible, mobile and inclusive of people of all traditions. Its goal is healing and reconciliation to each other and to God.
God gives us many gifts in this lifetime together but it is up to us to accept them and to use them. After years of being community through the churches and the day center, our neighbors, clients of Micah are moving to be church to each other and to anyone in need and to our city. Currently, we meet weekly in the parking lot of the Red Roof Inn for worship at 10 am – all are welcome. We will be posting a Bible Study on Facebook each week and offering suggested prayers for the community. And the members have decided that they want to reach out and help others. This month they will be collecting Children’s Bibles, sidewalk chalk, and school supplies to assemble backpacks for the 35 children living at the Super Value Inn in Spotsylvania. Donations can come to the Micah’s office at 1013 Princess Anne St. What does it mean to be community in exile? How do we love each other? It is an age-old question and one the Micah street community is answering – with God all things are possible.
The Micah Community Street Church has ecumenical support across the many denominations that make up our collaboration of churches. The Rev. Carey Connors has recently joined our team as a full-time chaplain to help this community develop an identity and lean into its God-given potential. Initial funding has come from the Lutheran Synod and Episcopal Diocese to discern what it means to “be church” with vs. to/for our neighbors in need The United Methodist Church has also assigned a pastor with extension to help us with this work. The end goal is an ecumenical new expression of church that crosses socioeconomic boundaries.
For more information, please contact:
Micah Community Chaplain