After last night, I’m not sure what that clichè means anymore.
Each NYE our congregation, CPC in The Hill, has a late watch service–no music, lots of reflection on what God in Christ means as we finish up another calendar year and begin another. We don’t usually have new-comers or random guests. But she doesn’t count, I guess because she had visited on Sunday for our service. I suspected she was homeless, but that won’t be confirmed till later just before our NYE service. For the Sunday morning service, she sat in the back, against the wall for the whole time.
She surprised me when she showed up at our NYE’s watch service at 10:30pm. She was there a little before it started. She told me she very much enjoyed our Sunday service. I asked her where she was living, where she was staying. She, with a little embarrassment, said, “I’m homeless.” Yes I kinda figured that I told her. She said she had a spot nearby (she actually gave me the specifics, but you don’t need to know that) and it was somewhat protected from the rain. She said her stuff is probably gone by now, but she wanted to come for the NYE service.
And, then, here it goes, what often happens when a homeless person comes . . . “May I ask you something?” This happens almost every time, so I began to be disappointed (on the inside already). She was going to ask for money, I just knew it. Here we go . . . “The songs we sang on Sunday morning, can I get a copy of the words? They meant so much to me.”
She stayed for the whole service. She worshipped with us. Confessed sins with us. Put her own written sins, the ones she wrote on her three sticky notes (just like we all did), on the small cross up from just like the rest of us. She eat with us. (We eat in the middle of the service.) She asked God three requests, which she wrote on sticky notes (like we all did) and stuck them on the cross over all our sins (on those sticky notes that) we had written, just like the rest of us. She shared a holy kiss with us—and we with her.
After some post-service fellowship and cleaning up, she left. She said she’ll be ok. She thanked me and others for the service. Multiple times.
Later, after everyone went home from our service. I slept in a warm bed, safe from the elements.
This is the part that gets me about ministry in the Hill. I feel so helpless to actually help.
No brilliant idea is going to solve the homeless crisis. (I know that. I have been in the work of social action for 20 years.) No dynamic increase in ministry will suddenly shelter all those who are homeless and make the nooks and crannies of the Hill their bedroom for the night.
But, God willing. We’ll made a difference. Somehow. In some way.
So my resolution, borrowing from the young Jonathan Edwards, who was a Yale student now long ago just down the street from us: “Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.” Because others need me to. Others need us to be so resolved as a church.
Give us a hundred more of these ladies (and men) who just want the words to the songs we sang on Sunday morning.
Please read and see more about our church and its ministry through our newsletters and videos (just click). And, please consider purchasing a copy of my Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church's Task of Evangelism, a deep, exegetical read into the Gospel of Mark. All royalties go to support our church planting in the Hill community of New Haven, CT. The book and its e-formats can be found on Amazon, Barns'n Noble (and most other online book distributors) or directly through the publisher, Wipf & Stock directly.