One of the major reasons that I signed up for this YAV year was because I wanted to feel like I was doing something useful with my life. This past week has been incredibly rewarding to me because I have been feeling like I’m living that mission, or quest if you will. Last Sunday was the music director, Rob’s, last Sunday. He had been with the church for 13 years and in that time he has had a profound impact on the church and the congregation. Some choir members told stories about how Rob and his passion for music has helped them in their faith journeys. Each story was powerful and meaningful in their own unique way and as an avid music lover there was something in every story that resonated with me. At the end of the service, the congregation surrounded Rob in the balcony as he played a marvelous benediction on the organ and afterwards we prayed for him on his journey and participated in a laying of the hands. It was such an emotional day and afterwards I gave him a hug and told him even though I’ve only known him for three weeks I’ll miss him, his talent and his positive, happy energy.
After that I helped serve lunch to the homeless in the neighborhood at the church’s weekly mission called Open Table. The main dish had already been prepared so all we had to do was warm it up however, there was no veggie option prepared. This means that I got to out in the urban garden and pick some swiss chard, arugula, mustard spinach and the like to make a fresh garden salad! Everyone was incredibly appreciative, one of the quotes I remember is when a gentleman told me that we were the second best part of his week, right after seeing the Pope! There was another man who I got talking to that stuck in my mind. Apparently he had been living on the streets for about two months after he was in a group of 30 that got laid off after some money had gone missing at his job. He was trying to get back on his feet doing whatever he could, landscaping, yard work, whatever jobs he could find even though I’m sure he was overqualified for most of those jobs. Before he left he shook everyone’s hand, thanked them and told us “Don’t let ‘em bring you down, keep your head up” and even asked if we took donations so when he gets back on his feet he can give back. There’s so many special people in this world who all have their own significant story and I’m grateful for every single one that I get to meet.
While waiting for the bus on the way home, one of my roommates and I took home some of the leftovers and we were talking about how popular the garlic bread was. A woman sitting on the bench next to us asked if we had just came from a party and we laughed and told her about Open Table. We got talking about church and how the one she grew up in had an emphasis on “blood” and had great people but the vibe of the church was not really welcoming so she had not been to a church since. We got talking about how even though we had only been attending Church of the Pilgrims for three weeks, we loved how progressive, music oriented and welcoming of a church Pilgrims is, and she seemed very intrigued. When she got off the bus at her stop she told us that we had inspired her to come to church on Sunday! Look at me! Doing some accidental evangelism, something I NEVER thought I would be doing, but I’m so happy to share the church that I love with people who need some positive light in their life.
I’ll leave you with a couple realizations I’ve had over the past week. The first is that it is through human interaction that makes me feel like my life has purpose. Through the examples I gave above to talking with roommates about our faith or why we chose to undertake this year, even going over to a church family’s house for dinner, holding their baby and later sharing stories with the parent’s about our life journeys. By connecting with people on a conversational level helps me feel like I’m making connections and therefore gives my life purpose.
The other realization I had was after church today. The church recently received a grant directed towards discernment for young adults so after worship we had a meeting to learn a little more about the grant. Before the meeting started, we did some word association practices with words like “faith” and “discernment.” For those of you that have been keeping up with my blog you won’t be surprised to hear that that one of the words I associate with “faith” is questions. When Ashley wrote down the word questions I realized that you can’t spell the word “questions” with the word “quest” which was mindblowing to me that I had never noticed that before. No matter what sort of quest you’re on, you have to ask questions. If you’re asking questions then you are on a quest. I think I’ll leave that with you to reflect upon until next time.
Feel free to click on the pictures to make them bigger! There’s an unusually large amount of pictures this post so enjoy!
Some beautiful flowers from the National Botanical Gardens
Another gorgeous flower from the botanical gardens. This one was in the desert section
A lot of fun pins and bumper stickers from local non-profits on a bulletin board in the Open Table area
The next three pictures are from a rally I went to. The rally was in support of families that are being threatened by the Bush Company (no relation) that owns their apartment. Bush Company has essentially said that they will stop accepting the rent of tenants that afford to live at the complex with the help of Section 8 and housing vouchers. The apartment happens to be in a quickly gentrifying area which is on the edge of what used to be China Town. I learned at this rally that the number of Chinese residents living in China Town has been decimated from 3,000 to 300 in the past decades. It was so moving to hear the tenants tell their stories and seeing the diversity of the crowd of people who showed up to hold up rush hour traffic in order to educate commuters about this issue that is hurting the natives of DC.
A couple speakers from the national chapter of Right to the City. Right to the City emerged in 2007 as a unified response to gentrification and a call to halt the displacement of low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from their historic urban neighborhoods. Quote taken from their website righttothecity.org/about/mission-history
A glimpse of the rally walking through the streets during rush hour. Museum Square, the apartment complex at risk, is on the right and you can see the gentrified apartments on the left and behind Museum Square on the right.
I took this picture one day when the church made bagged lunches for the homeless in the area which included an invitation to Open Table and a map so they knew how to get there. This picture was taken two blocks from the White House, next to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A beautiful vase of flowers taken from the garden behind the church! It was so pretty I had to take a picture of it before a church member dumped it out after lunch.