Monday, August 20, 2012

Vacation to Vocation

Back to work tomorrow.  Anticipating a full day of ministry, witness, connection.

I wonder, sometimes, at my good fortune in doing all this.  Serving a congregation of heart and courage.  Imagining new ways to heal and reconcile.  My days are meaningful, my hours pass thoughtfully.  I work with folks who insist on making a difference. 

Tomorrow, for instance, I have three very specific opportunities:

First, I'll head over to the Santa Cruz County Jail--where our Men's Group leads a weekly bible study and communion service.  The conversation's always intense, challenging; and sometimes it's raw.  I'm often moved by the depth of spiritual desire and the vulnerability of broken men.  Communion is both a sacrament and their cry for something new.  Something better.  Something blessed.

From jail, I'll head over to Calvary Episcopal Church, where a dozen COPA leaders convene for an organized conversation around homelessness in Santa Cruz and our communities' experience in ministry.  Once again, in our city, the needs of homeless neighbors are disputed; and some question the city's generous spirit of service and care.  Are we too permissive?  Do we encourage antisocial behavior?

We gather tomorrow to begin an honest dialogue around our churches' ministries and their impact: on us and on our vulnerable friends.  What kind of a city do we imagine?  How are we challenged and changed by these ministries in our midst?  What kind of witness do we offer to city officials and policymakers?  I'm struck by how quickly all this cuts to the heart of the Christian vocation: to love the stranger, to welcome to sojourner.  Will we, will our congregation, speak to that vocation now?

Later, after dinner, I'm hosting a meeting at First Congregational Church for members and friends interested in a brand new outreach to family members of the incarcerated.  We've been asked to explore this by a good friend at the jail--who sees a key need as she interacts with mothers, fathers, daughters, sons of the men and women incarcerated in our county system.  Can we, as a church, offer some support?  Can we be a compassionate presence in the lives of those--on the outside--whose hearts are often broken?

See what I mean?  This is the reach of our congregation, the compassion of First Congregational Church.  We care.  We care for men and women incarcerated for all kinds of reasons and hoping to put their lives together again.  We care for the homeless families and homeless women and men who come to Santa Cruz looking for some kind of support, hoping for a second chance.  And we care for the invisible families--those left behind when fathers and sons go off to jail.  We care.  And we collaborate prayerfully--leaning on the Spirit of Jesus--to bring new programs, new initiatives, new ministries to fruition.

Back to work tomorrow.  Jesus, give me courage.  And a spirit of deep, abiding, relentless gratitude!