Wednesday, December 04, 2013

What Do We Offer?

I am finding myself almost daily learning something new about Pope Francis, and each new revelation is surprising and inspiring. 

When he carried his own bags and paid his own hotel bill after the Conclave, I took note.  When he eschewed the gaudiest robes and the special shoes and the fancy "bling" that goes with being Pope, I sat up a bit.  When he washed the feet of prisoners (including women), I found myself leaning forward.  And when he agreed to receive Tim Schmalz's controversial -- but to my mind powerfully evocative -- sculpture, "Jesus the Homeless," my smile shone in my eyes.

But when I heard that he has been known to sneak out at night to minister to the homeless?  I wasn't just impressed . . . I was moved.  Could it be, as a friend of mine asked, that we finally have a Christian as Pope?

As I say, I was moved.  I've written before about my encounters with some of the unhoused people I'd met while commuting in and out of Boston during my days at UUHQ.  And Charlottesville, like virtually everywhere else, has a homeless population, a few of whom I have gotten to know a bit.  And the church that I serve is part of the town's PACEM program that provides housing during the coldest months of the year, so working with the homeless and to end homelessness is one of our ministries already.  One to which I'm particularly drawn.

After hearing about Pope Francis I found myself thinking about how I spend my time.  Could I make a practice of going out to the Downtown Mall and spending some time there, getting to know the guys who pass their days there?  Could I make time to volunteer at the Haven?  And I started fantasizing about saying to them as we get to know each other, "You should come by our church some Sunday," and having TJMC become a community where homeless men and women and professors from UVa rub shoulders as members of the same family.

But then I thought, "would what we're doing here matter?"  Would the things we say and do on Sundays matter to people who don't have a roof over their heads and who don't know where their next meal is coming from?  I know that the "salvific message" of Unitarian Universalism would be relevant.  I believe that our core teaching -- which I sum up as "we are one human family, on one fragile planet, in one miraculous universe, bound by love" -- is life giving.  But would our Sunday assemblies?

I don't think so.  And I don't know what it would take for the folks who come for food on the first Friday, or our PACEM guests, to feel welcome and at home.  But I know I like the idea.

And for what it's worth, I think the Pope would like it too.

Pax tecum,

RevWik Print this post


arthurrashap said...

What comes to mind after reading this "musing" is all the current work going on regarding planning the future of TJMCUU. I feel it is all about "us" - how to structure and serve us as members, how to support the bricks and mortar and stuff. Sure there is an element of being a part of the larger communities and an element of what it means to be a concerned human of spiritual leaning in this time and place - and this musing says perhaps we should prioritize this latter element a bit more (or a lot more) as we look to the future.
Arthur Rashap

arthurrashap said...


Mike Ludwick said...

We are on the same wavelength Arthur. I do feel like sometimes we are focusing a lot on "us" rather than the "we" that Rev. Wik has preached about. Some of it is necessary, of course, and hopefully in the planning this perspective can be addressed since part of the planning has to do with outreach and communications. "Ask not what the church can do for you, but what you and the church can do for the world."

Dave Dawson said...

I'm very inspired by this blog. Thanks Erik, Arthur and Mike. A similar dynamic is taking place at All Souls Church in DC. How do we take care of an older building and still maintain a meaningful presence to the people in the surrounding community who are in need? How do we achieve the dream of "Beloved Community?" Increasingly I think ministers like Ron Robinson in Turley, OK are giving us some hints. Keep posting!!!

RevWik said...

I would say, Arthur, that it's only "about us" if we allow it to be. We're trying to catch the vision of the church at this time. It's possible that that vision is to better serve the people in our pews. It's also possible that it's to better serve the wider community. The strategic planning process is intended to be one of asking questions. How we, as a community, choose to answer them is entirely up to us.