Today was, you know, a brilliant day. The sun was brilliant; the colors of the changing leaves were brilliant; the people worshipping this morning at Grace Church were brilliant. The choir and bell choir were especially brilliant today.
And what a beautiful, sunny, warmish but not too much Sunday afternoon for our second "street service", Worship for All People. At 2:00 eight people, including one child, gathered under the trademark EZup tent which marks the spot on the parking lot for our come-as-you-are worship. We had a bag of Ecclesia-Ministry crosses, cut lengths of cord, strung the crosses and laid them on the altar (actually a metal kitchen cart doing double duty!) and began worship. We sang, said our opening prayers of preparation, and heard the gospel story for today, from Mark: the story of Jesus and the blind beggar Bartimaeus.
We were discussing what we heard in the story when we were joined by a ninth worshipper. We said prayers for those we wanted to hold before God, said the prayers over the bread and grape juice, received the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then handed out the crosses. Since we had not strung extra crosses, I took my cross off, the one I received at a similar street service in New Haven, and gave it to the latecomer, who I recognized from the neighborhood. The people received their crosses with the words, "Receive this cross as a sign that Jesus is always with you".
After worship, we shared coffee and sack lunches, then gathered up the remaining lunches and bottles of water, with donations of white socks, and hit the street. We did not encounter anyone in the four blocks we walked today except a woman with two children looking for directions to the Aquarium, but James met us at the end with his tri-wheeler motorcycle and packed all that we were carrying in the boot of his bike and headed into South Norwalk, a bit too far to walk I'm afraid, to distribute our offerings of food, water and fellowship.
Four sandwich bags were held back for the church fridge, in case of people in need this week.
Next month, November, our service on the 29th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, will include a thanksgiving meal. Those of us who will be in town and intend to be at that service are each making a little more than we need for our own Thanksgiving dinner, to bring on Sunday afternoon to share. This time we will sit down - outside! (maybe we need another EZup tent!) - and eat, making room for anyone who comes "late" and have our service around the table.
A note about "late" and street time: We begin at 2:00 because we're used to doing things by the clock. For people who live on the street, experiencing homelessness, time is when it seems to be. So 2:00, for instance, is when it seems to be about 2:00. Anyone who enters this ministry will learn a flexibility and a generosity of spirit enough, I believe, to carry us through the times we will be frustrated or even disgusted. Generosity toward time is a good place to begin.
Makes me think what I though a few months after beginning at Grace Church: Some congregations, including Grace, could benefit their souls by recreating the "entrance rite", the beginning of the service, to stretch to include those who live time in a different way from the rest of us. I wonder what that expansive "entrance rite" would look like.
A final note: When I went to clear the things from the altar, I found a cross, strung with its cord, a replacement for the one I had given away. This is church; this is Worship for All People.