Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
God, help us to live now and serve now! Amen.
-St. Teresa of Avila
If you passed by the Cathedral close on April 17, 2015 at 8pm, you would have seen tents and cardboard boxes being set up and heard youth and their youth leaders worshipping God in St. Alban’s parish hall.
In this year’s Live Now Serve Now formation opportunity, youth and their youth leaders from across churches and regions joined together to learn and experience why service and outreach are important parts of a Christian life. Friday night participants had the choice of sleeping out on the west lawn of the Cathedral or at St. Alban’s parish rectory. We opened with an amazing worship with the. Rev. Kent Marcoux as our musician and the. Rev. Sari Ateek as our speaker. We talked and sang about being the hands and feet of Christ and being the light of Christ to everyone we meet. We then broke out into small groups where we talked about fears, comforts, witnessing, and mission based on our Gospel passage for the weekend: Luke 24:36b-48. “It was great to meet the youth and adults from different parishes. I especially liked the upbeat music and the heartfelt sermons at both services. Enjoying the beauty of the cathedral and the perfect weather helped me get closer to God,” says Brien from St. George’s, Valley Lee.
As the sun began to rise on Saturday morning, there was no tossing and turning from those who slept outside on the west lawn of the National Cathedral or inside the St. Alban’s parish rectory. While getting ready for the day, we reflected on what it was like camping outside in DC. As Bishop Mariann led us in Eucharist, she invited us to pay attention to the emotions and experiences we had while serving and to notice that God is at work in it all. Then everyone was sent out to five mission locations throughout Washington DC area. We gathered our groups and took the buses and Metro to each of the mission sites.
At each mission site, young people learned about the mission of the ministry, engaged in a hands-on experience and then debriefed what they had experienced. The organizations included:
Grace’s Table, Grace Church Georgetown – We helped to served lunch and ate with those we served. Grace’s Table is a fellowship that provides and shares a meal at 11:30 am on Saturdays for persons who are homeless or on the margins of being homeless.
Epiphany Mission Center, Epiphany Episcopal Church, DC– We took a tour of the mission center and then went to a nearby park to engage and pray for the people we met. The Epiphany Mission Center offers a weekend retreat called EMC-DC which offers groups a chance to explore the question, “Who is my neighbor?” while observing, engaging, and responding to injustice in the world around them.
Seabury Assisted Living, Friendship Heights, DC- A group participated in making door hangers with residents. Seabury Resources for Aging’s mission is to provide personalized, affordable services and housing options to help older adults in the greater Washington, DC area live with independence and dignity.
DC127- Foster Parents’ Home and Packing Boxes for Homeless Youth – One group went to a foster parents’ house to help clean and weed the yard. Another group went to St. Columba’s to stuff boxes with supplies and goodies for youth who are homeless. DC127 is an initiative of Washington, DC churches focused on working together to ensure the success of every child in foster care and those at risk of entering the child welfare system. As an initiative, they believe we have a responsibility and call to mobilize our communities and congregations to care for some of the most vulnerable children in our city.
Matthew from Christ Church, Durham reflects on his time at a mission site and says, “There is something special that happens when a stranger shares their story with you. Their appreciation and the connection you feel brings a sense of joy despite the circumstances.”
“The people there were so kind and accepting; it reminds you how we should live our lives everyday. This weekend was definitely a huge boost for my faith and I’m sad it’s over, can wait for next year’s!” says Jimmy from St. Francis’, Potomac.
“You are a home for the weary and lost. You are a home for the orphan. those who cry mercy find hope in the cross, for you are home for the broken.”
-lyrics and song by Sari Ateek
As everyone started making their way back from their missions sites to St. Alban’s parish, some were filled with excitement about telling someone else about their experience, some were saddened by what they had seen and some felt called to do something similar at their own parish.
If you would like to do something similar at your parish or community, we have listed below the liturgy/music, small group questions and provided links to all the mission locations, please feel free to use any and all the resources.
Thank you to all who participated, planned, and organized, including Pattie Ames, St. Columbas; Josh Ruiter, St. Francis Potomac; Steve Seely, St. Pauls Piney; Sue Von, St. Dunstan’s; Melissa Williams, St. Timothy’s, DC; Kent Marcoux, St. Georges, DC. We would like to invite all who did not get a chance to serve in the DC community with your diocese this year to come next year and to continue to be the hands and feet of Christ in your own community.
Saturday morning small group reflection questions (put together by the Rev. Amanda Akes)
The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.
-Frederick Buechner, from The Sacred Journey
In this past year, congregations of our Diocese have been looking for ways to collaborate with each other in ministry, worship or social gatherings. Often congregations tend to clusters together with others in a sense of shared commonality– geography, size, diversity, interests, practices of ministry. But I’d like to encourage you to consider collaborating with a congregation that is completely different from your own…so different as to make you uncomfortable when you first meet.
This winter, members of Misa Alegría, the Spanish language congregation of St. Stephen and the Incarnation and members of the Church of the Redeemer, Bethesda embarked upon an adventure in cross-cultural discovery. I had the great good fortune to be Redeemer’s seminarian for two years before heading off with high hopes of planting a new Latino congregation at St. Stephen and the Incarnation, located in the heart of Latino DC. Church of the Redeemer has generously supported Misa Alegría’s music ministry from our beginning almost ten years ago. They also invite our children to participate in their annual Music Camp. This year Redeemer’s Mission Committee decided they would like to see if our communities could meet and get to know each other.
After several conversations we decided that we would read the Pulitzer Prize winning bookEnrique’s Journey/La Travesia de Enrique to help gain an understanding of the passage that most Central American immigrants endure in order to come to the United States. It is a true story and a difficult read. It is a story much like those of many members of the Misa Alegría congregation.
Our first meeting was held at St. Stephen’s; 20 some people equally representing each church. We tried not to feel awkward with one another. We shared our names, food, and song. We talked a little about the book and the Misa folks answered some basic questions that the book raised. We took a group picture. Our body language was stiff. Our smiles were for the camera.
Enrique’s story quickly became the springboard into a deep personal sharing. By our second meeting at Redeemer, Santos, Elsa, Azucena, Blanca and others began to open their hearts and generously offer the details of a tough, painful sojourn of hope in search of new life that will enable them to help the families left behind survive and even thrive.
The stories were riveting…a nighttime chase in the desert by men and dogs with a helicopter hovering overhead only to be saved by a cleft in a rock! Eight months in a border detention prison, her US-born daughter is now Misa Alegría’s first college student—and on a full scholarship. Survival after a fall from the top of the train known as La Bestia (the Beast) that is known for its deadly mutilations and deaths. A song of unswerving faith in God’s presence and providence hums through all these accounts.
The sharing of stories and deep listening led to questions and conversations between people who found common threads in their lives. Back and forth in English and Spanish, our conversations aided by the bilingual people in our group. In our time together we chatted about many things, we exchanged children’s books and recipes and celebrated our time together.
Of her experience, Marie of Redeemer wrote, “It took courage to speak up about the abuse, the fear, the danger…To stir up the pain again…Not to return to see the children left behind…To work hard here in a limbo of reward and loss. Some wept. They said that it meant a lot simply to be heard. All of us were moved, as we sat across from each other, to speak and to listen, fellow Episcopalians in the Diocese of Washington.”
The people of Misa Alegría have come to understand that sharing their stories is an important ministry. By sharing their own journeys they change perceptions, open eyes and touch the hearts of many. They become teachers—a new role for many. So much of ministry with the immigrant community is directed towards helping and teaching the newcomer: how to speak English, how to negotiate this new country, how to this and that. Cross cultural conversations such as these help us to become equal partners and companions for a time. All benefit from both giving and receiving.
On our last night together, we held hands and offered one word prayers and then passed the Peace with heartfelt hugs and smiles all around. Our collaboration has not ended there. Members of the group continue to visit each other for worship and for special events. Together, we are strengthening bonds of mutual affection and nurturing some of the deep desires of the human soul—to hear and be heard, to know and to be known, to recognize that we are all pilgrims on the sacred journey.
I am convinced that one of the most effective ways to build and strengthen any community is though the sharing of our sacred journeys. If your congregation would be interested in forming a Sacred Journey circle or a cross-cultural conversation circle please contact me, The Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin.