In Genesis, God created humanity with the earth. When we look back and tell the creation story of Street Church, I hope we start with the dirt…
Feeling a bit out of place, I remember walking into the doors of Farrell hall for the first time in January 2020. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into when this short in stature, but larger than life woman they call Meghann Cotter, asked me to lead a small Sunday study with some friends from the community. Full of prophetic wisdom, she invited me to “come and see” what the Lord was up to within the Micah community. Though I had never worked with those experiencing homelessness before in my ministry, I had close to a decade of worship leading experience and agreed without hesitation, ‘how hard could it be for just one morning?’ I thought to myself, not realizing what was ahead.
I was in a season of transition myself. I was in the “in-between” or the “waiting place” as Dr. Seuss likes to call it in his children’s book Oh the Places You will Go. I was waiting for God to speak into my next steps. I recently decided to take a year off from my M.Div program to focus on my family after the birth of my second son, Nate. It was a season of spiritual rest and wandering. I wanted to take time to focus on simply “being” rather than doing. I also wanted clarity on my call to ministry as I neared graduation. Where did God need me to plant next?
I showed up to lead that morning’s discussion and met another larger than life man named “Bear.” I distinctly remember the first moment I met him. He introduced himself and made sure I was protected the whole morning. He was ready to help with anything and I could tell he was a papa bear and beloved. He made it his intention to make sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed. Bear was the first person I had ever met who had experienced homelessness, and he was so open about his story. I was grateful for his vulnerability with me.
While I wasn’t expecting it, something awoke in me that faithful Sunday morning that I agreed to lead the study for a group of people currently experiencing homelessness. It was something I wasn’t expecting. As if a piece of my soul was shaken out of slumber and I finally recognized all the ways that God had been preparing me for this moment; and so, I decided to say yes.
The timing didn’t make sense because I thought I was supposed to be “resting” some more (it had been about six months since my son was born); but like a seed who has been waiting for the right Kairos (greek for Gods time), to sprout, I knew God was sowing an opportunity for me to grow and bloom. Though I could not perceive what was ahead of the journey, I could feel that Jesus was leading the way.
I got to experience a couple more Sunday sessions in a crowded day center where folks lined up for showers afterwards. It was a lively discussion and you never knew where the conversation would take a turn to something completely unexpected and even I daresay, prophetic. I wanted to learn more of their stories. I wanted to understand their faith that seemed so deep and real. I realized I had been in Seminary too long because my understanding of God was so tied up in my head that I forgot what it felt like to have God stirring so deep in my heart.
I was amazed at this group, that I had only begun to know; their resiliency and strength, even their tenderness and generosity is profound. As I look back on the last year, I knew so little (and still have a lot to learn) but the people in our community have been guiding me along and continuing to invite me into their story. Together, we have been preparing the earth for our budding faith community we like to call “street church” to be “good soil” so that God’s seeds have the opportunity to grow in the streets of Fredericksburg.
Yesterday, I had the distinct privilege of being installed as the lead pastor and chaplain overseeing the spiritual growth and community building of Micah Ministries. It was a surreal moment, one that will sit in my heart for a lifetime.
As I looked around yesterday, I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I saw many of our members who have been walking alongside us this year. They have continued to jointly ask the question, “where is God leading us next? How can we be faithful to that Call? How can we be good soil ready for God’s seeds to successfully grow?” Together they brought up gifts and symbols of grace unique for this ministry:
“Chelsea, accept this coffee…and create space where there is a cup for all neighbors.”
“Take this rock…and embrace all our jagged edges. Remind us of the water that continues to wash over our lives.”
“Use this lighter…to bring the light of Christ to neighbors in this community.”
“Scatter these seeds… to nurture and grow our faith, even when it may be the size of a mustard seed.”
“Receive this cross…as a symbol of the body in which we are greater together than we could ever be apart.
I was overjoyed to see our clergy and laity partners who came to support and participate in the service, as well. We had new folks who had never been to our community before and some who have decided to recently call this faith community their home, coming back week after week.
Though the crowd may look different from that first Sunday I led, the people who find their way here each week are looking for something greater than themselves. Perhaps they come for the coffee, but stay for the community; either way, they are choosing to say “yes” to the opportunity to experience God together. If there is anything this year has taught us, it is that even when we cannot see it, God is making a way through the wilderness (Isaiah 43:19). It is God who is doing a “new thing” and we have the opportunity to participate in what God is cultivating on this sacred ground.
Oh, and Bear, that big guy who protected me from the very first day on that faithful Sunday? He was there too. This time, he was praying over me as I received a blessing to care for this community with a servant’s heart, a mother’s touch, and the Father’s grace.
Despite being planted in what felt like a desolate season, in the year 2020 and all that came with it, God is tilling up the good earth in our Micah Community. The Churches have been strategically working together to ensure meals have been provided and the day center has remained open. We are not going through the motions, but we are intentional with how we are serving God with our hands, feet and hearts.
God has been using all of us, including our neighbors, to do the spiritual “ground work” to prepare us for what lies ahead. Now, we get to watch God’s seeds grow more fruit than we could ever imagine. And to think, it all started with some “good dirt” that will lead us back to God’s beautiful garden, for the whole kingdom of God.
Thanks be to God,