By the Reverend Sandy Webb
On the banks of Galilee, Jesus said: “Come, have breakfast.” On Wednesdays, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral downtown does the same – worship and breakfast at 8:00 a.m.
The service is entirely familiar, yet entirely unique. The words are the same, but their significance is greater. Most of the people at this service are either homeless or in danger of losing whatever housing they may have. “Give us this day our daily bread,” sounds different on their lips than it does on mine. Their dollar in the plate is so much more sacrificial.
Befriending people on the margins of society is nothing new for St. Mary’s: They gave refuge to the victims of Yellow Fever when everyone else skipped town, they created a school for girls (now Holy Communion’s neighbor) when no one else would, and they marched for Civil Rights when it was most unpopular. Now, they are fostering an authentic Christian community among people whose stories and personhood are too often overlooked.
The young man who sat next to me at the service never shared his name, but he had a well-worn copy of the Shelby County guidebook on tenants’ rights tucked under his arm. He came to church looking for hope; I hope that he found it.
Maria, too. A homeless veteran, a childhood rape victim, and almost certainly one of the millions of Americans struggling with mental illness, she sat across from me at breakfast. Her life is hard, but her smile never wavered: “Today,” she kept telling me, “Today is the day that things are going to get better.”
When asked to pray, very few people asked God for the tangible things that they lacked. Instead, they asked for peace, for kindness, for patience, even one for self-control. They asked for the very things that St. Paul tells us the Holy Spirit stands ready to give.
Faith is much easier when things are going well than when they are not, when we are physically safe than when we are not. I was lifted up by the harder kind of faith in Sisters’ Chapel today, and it was a beautiful thing. I went to see a ministry that is transforming its neighborhood, and ended up being transformed myself.
Photo by Cindy McMillion