Today, 11/5/13, twenty of our people gathered to worship, discuss the Scriptures and issues in living, share a meal, shop in our free store,talk with the Pastors and enjoy an afternoon of fellowship. Ellen and Jack McNally brought and served second helpings of a delicious lasagna dinner. Dwayne prayed to bless the meal and also blessed them. They received loud and hearty applause.
Many of our Tuesday church members and the McNallys and another guest today, Evelyn Efaw, have been with us since we had Good Shepherd Church in the Park- serving a hot meal and sharing worship in nearby Lion’s Park on a Friday night from 2007-2009, ( Come By Here: Making Church with the Poor is the book I wrote in 2010 to share that wonderfully blessed mutual ministry-PublishAmerica.com;Amazon.com;BandN.com,) In 2009 we began Good Shepherd church in the house, a home we bought to function as a church and a transitional residence for people making the transition from homelessness. Twenty-four people lived at our Joshua House and while we had to expand our church space and no longer have this residence, all except two of those present with us today now enjoy their own homes. The community of love and faith has existed over time and distances. It is with great joy that this group gathers on Tuesday.
The worship and discussion time is lively as we have a room full of preachers and teachers who have lived through major troubles and are experts in helping each other. The reading from the book of Wisdom assured us that God loves all that God has made. “God don’t make junk” Nathaniel said. “And God loves us no matter what we are or have become. God looks at our hearts and at what we can and will become” said Lauretta. She also pointed out that Wisdom was written before Jesus was born and God’s love is as old as time itself. As we sang “This is Holy Ground” before the Gospel reading, they touched their own hearts and their neighbor’s shoulder to affirm that “we” are holy ground.
The reading from Luke 19 on Zacchaeus the short tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus brought forth laughter about Zacchaeus climbing that tree and understanding of prejudice and difference and preconceptions of people that are painful and harmful. Many had experienced such prejudice and discrimination based on outward characteristics. Phyllis said “but God looks on the heart-it didn’t matter to Jesus that Zacchaeus was so short or even if he was a cheating tax collector.” “The point is he met Jesus and he changed his ways” Mary said. “Meeting Jesus changes us if we need changing” Tim said. The reflections on feeling lost were equally sharp and poignant. Gary concluded “it is so good to be found by God-and to know you really can’t get lost.” Evelyn, our volunteer who had been through a life threatening car accident shared her story and reflected how good it was to return to this loving and welcoming group. She too was warmly welcomed and applauded. Roger and Lauretta brought special donations and were also applauded. Octavia, Mary and Nelson and Darnell and David were welcomed back after an absence. Everyone was excited to be together again. The contagious joy of this congregation is how church can and should be. It is a healing balm.
Serving one another-The Mc Nallys, Nelson, Robert and Evelyn
The issues today included unemployment, disability and ability, new housing for some and homelessness and hope for others. Reconciliation with family and part time jobs for others brought a sense of accomplishment and encouragement. One woman asked me to talk and pray with her. She recently went through a traumatic event and was feeling vulnerable and frightened. Near to a breaking point she asked Pastor Judy B and I to take her to the Emergency Psychiatric Unit at the end of the day and after my negotiation with the admitting Psychiatrist she was able to be admitted. She was so thankful and relieved to feel safe and to be where she could get help. She said that she felt safe again as soon as she got to the church and knew the answer to her troubles would be with us. She was no longer lost but found by the Jesus who seeks the lost and hangs out with the sinners and outcast. Together we all belong. Together we are church.
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B.Lee
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community -Fort Myers, Florida