Over the last couple of months, we have been working hard to build out leadership teams that empower our neighbors to be the decision makers of this community that we call Street Church. It is important that they learn the tenets of what it means to be in Christian community with one another and the responsibilities that come with leading a church. By doing so, it empowers them and provides a sense of self-worth that comes from knowing they are needed and capable to do this work. It is with this spirit that all of our teams from our partner churches walk alongside this community as we strive to empower our neighbors to be courageous in spirit as One body of Christ.
Yesterday at Street Church, I watched proudly as our team worked interdependently to set up and prepare for the service. We have come such a long way! They made the decision of where they wanted to worship and a team of neighbors showed up to set up the tables and chairs at 8:45 AM. Bear and Marvin were in the kitchen, happily chatting and cooking sausage preparing for the guests to come. It was a beautiful assembly of God’s people.
Bear and Marvin have become quite the team on Sunday morning. Happily greeting the partner church groups coming in to help them cook in the kitchen. Together, they help observe the needs of the community and manage the flow of food on Sunday mornings. I have seen such growth in both of them in the last year as we have grown together as a team and individuals.
[Image: Marvin and Bear in the kitchen-they call themselves “Kobe and Shaq”]
Bear is learning self-control and how to better express his feelings when he feels frustrustrated. He is learning how to be the servant leader God has called him to be. Marvin has grown exponentially since he joined us a couple months ago as he gains skills in the kitchen to meet his future goals of becoming a chef.
[Image: Minister Bear in the kitchen serving food for distribution]
As we prepared for our “collective” homily, I asked our congregation to reflect on their life story and the ways that they have had to act courageously. Where did their courage come from? As they shared, I quickly realized that every week that this community walks through our doors – is an act of courage.
Courage may look different than the traditional good triumphing evil, like we see in the David and Goliath story or even the story of Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:31-41).
An act of courage in this community may look like vulnerability. An opening of our hearts to new friendships and support systems after spending many years isolated. Trust is hard to build when you have experienced homelessness, because people “let you down.” Creating space for relationships is courageous.
A symbol of courage and redemptive grace looks like the mothers of our community bringing their children to church for the first time and sharing their stories of resilience with the group while their kids listened to their mom’s sharing their hearts. (We give thanks to God for the five precious young people who were with us with their mommas yesterday!)
An act of courage may look like learning to speak our truth and handle conflict in healthy ways. Learning to speak truth in love, setting boundaries and showing up in the secular world as a Christian, is remarkably brave.
Courage may look like Marvin going in for an interview for the first time in a decade. With the help and support of our leadership team and bridge-to-work team. Marvin had the courage and confidence to go into the interview knowing that he was capable and gifted (and got the job at Carabbas!).
[Image: Marvin with new Carrabbas gear, ready for work! Look at that smile!]
Courage looks like showing love through baking for the community for the first time, unprompted. One of our rising high school seniors, Michelle, recently moved into housing after living in a hotel for over a year. She made our community a “Superman” Fathers Day Cake now that she has a kitchen to bake in. She offered her abundance to the community by baking with love. That is incredibly courageous.
[Image: Michelle shows off her baking skills with a Father’s Day Cake]
Simply, courage acts when assurance of the love and trust that comes with knowing who we are, and whose we are, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Together, we are a courageous community that lifts one another up in life’s big and small moments. Whether it is rallying support around a person transitioning into housing (which can be daunting) with a house blessing and meal, making space to grieve at a memorial, or simply spending time together in fellowship and fun, this community is more than just a breakfast gathering on Sunday mornings. We are building a neighborhood of support. We continue to reinforce that we are a resilient Body that can do hard things through Christ who strengthens us. Through the never ending grace of Christ Jesus, we have a limitless love that reminds us, over and over, that we are chosen, worthy and called, just as we are.
This weekend was another reminder that this beautiful gathering really is becoming a church. We are building a community of support for our people that reaches beyond Sunday morning worship so that we can provide a neighborhood model of support. A place where our people can truly do life together. We do this work because we are called to proclaim the good news that the courageous Spirit of love dwells in each of us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God, even in the storms of life, we are never alone on the boat. We are in this together.
Grace and Peace for the journey ahead,