Monday, January 31, 2011
I'd been anticipating this first community meal together as part of our Sunday gathering. Establishing and deepening missional communitas has become increasingly important to me. Not only do I enjoy being around these people, but I see it essential to building the level of unified relationships for internalizing the mission together - what in his latest book, Alan Hirsch calls going from being friends or associates to becoming heart-tethered comrades in our Kingdom efforts together. I long for such camaraderie and see it as essential and biblical.
I have to say the only downside was Tricia, because of her illness couldn't be with us (big sigh), nor could Karen B., Nate, Ash, Mike, Amy P., or Matt and Karen P.
Nevertheless, a few notables stood out to me:
1. Tricia, because of her gifting and vast experience with such food-related events usually pulls the logistics together, but couldn't, so Jenn ably stepped in and did a bang-up job getting everything ready. She's a gifted, can-do kind of person able to take care of what is needed.
2. Amy and Jon stepped in to do the Good Shepherd program for the kids. They also are gifted and have can-do attitudes, initiating gracious "what can I do's" frequently.
3. Once the service was over, everyone pitched in to re-arrange our worship space and turn it into a Pot of Grace Community Meal space. Everyone brought delicious food to share and there was plenty of it. Watching the team go to work and set up the stuff we do together always feels like shalom to me, gracious order asserts its rightful presence and people are blessed.
4. Watching conversations occur, people getting to know each other better, sharing laughter, and talking about important things is just a pleasure. I see it subtly building imagine's identity as a community gathered around a specific summoning We have a long way to go, but meals and conversations settle people into mission, sometimes without them being aware. May we eat and talk together more and may it help transform us into fire-hearted, Jesus centered, Kingdom-drenched brothers and sisters.
5. Perhaps the most delightful aspect of yesterday (a DELIGHT among delights), was having Steve with us. I will write more about him later, but Steve is a man who lives his life on the streets. I've been building a relationship with him for months. This week, I asked a couple of times if he'd join us for dinner after church. He said "yes," but I've learned from being around these folks for a while now, it doesn't necessarily mean they'll show up.
Well, Steve did. Maureen, as she was coming to the gathering, walked by and reminded him! Maureen gets it and has since the beginning.
Everyone was wonderful to him. He loved the food and hung around. After and hour or so, he had to leave to get back on the street and "do his job," as he put it, to make some money. Amazingly, he asked spontaneously for my card and when we meet for worship. He said even if we have "meetings"during the week, he'd like to come. He meant it. I didn't expect him to ask.
Steve is the first homeless person to share a meal with us. We want to open our meals and everything we do to folks like him.
I'd also asked Pyro, another homeless guy I've been praying for and talking to, but he was not at his usual spot. As we were waiting to sit down, Matt B. asked if I'd talked to Pyro about the meal. I told him I had earlier in the week. Matt offered to invite him again if he was around, and went out to find him. Matt asked also if we could make a plate for him in the event Pyro didn't want to come up -- something we've done before during the week when we have extra food. Pyro wasn't there, but I was heartened by Matt's missional "impulse" to invite him. It affirms we are internalizing the Kingdom work we've been summoned to. I'll never tire of that!
6. Last but not least, Brad and Deb Davis joined us for the gathering and the meal. We always love being around them. They're gifted friends we've been praying God would summon to imagine/Northampton's mission as well. They live in CT. This year, maybe???
The day went well and all were enlivened, I think. Holy enlivening is good. And when communitas takes root over time, redemptive miracles happen. May Jesus show us favor with communitas, and may Northampton's least of His brethren discover this God who is far more than they've ever imagined because of it. He's the miracle this small city needs.