Sara Miles poignantly points out in her book City of God, “Paradise may be a garden, but heaven is a city.” During college, my search for myself took me to the wilderness of Vermont, where I spent four years reading and writing and struggling with what my future was going to look like. My search for God - who so often shows himself best in the hearts of others - took me to the city. The city is messy and beautiful and imperfect, teeming with people of all shapes and sizes, religions and skin colors. BBQ joints, jazz musicians, corner markets and homeless missions stretch the city to its limits with God’s presence. The city has a history that is heavy with both sorrow and hope. The city is as surprising as it is generous, and it is where the people of God make themselves known. In late October I walked along the banks of the Mississippi and was reminded that the city of God boasts a river of life, too.
I am amazed that I’ve been at the Metropolitan Interfaith Association (MIFA) for five months now. Without a doubt, it has been an incredible journey. I cannot imagine a place that could provide a more thought-provoking and deeply engaging introduction to the city of Memphis or its inhabitants. MIFA’s clients are diverse in their backgrounds, faith traditions and perspectives in life – but each and every one of them paints a beautiful picture of God’s kingdom. My life has been blessed by their presence.
MIFA’s history is an important one, and its ethos underscores everything that we do here. Founded in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, an ecumenical group of clergy and lay people from different faiths and different communities decided that it was necessary to start an organization to look after the vulnerable in the city. And for nearly 50 years, MIFA has united the people of Memphis through service. Thirteen hundred seniors had a meal today and experienced human companionship because a dedicated team of volunteers and donors made it so. Families who would otherwise be homeless have roofs over their heads for another night. The work that we do here is invaluable, and I consider it a privilege to be a part of it.
May God be with you,
Raina is one of Holy Communion's two City of Soul: Episcopal Service Corps in Memphis, Tennessee members. This appeared in the February issue of the Communicator.
Photo by Cara Modisett: Mississippi River in Memphis, sunset.