Here’s an On the Ground Post
From my office on the streets. Its a funky little cafe during the day, and an international hostel by night. It’s been my Wednesday office hang out for more the seven years. I discovered quickly that many of the people who I come into contact with – even those who I would categorize as friends many who live streetlevel or struggle with mental illness or just have scattered lives and agendas; As our talk would take us below the surface of their lives they would often ask to meet up later in the week to continue these conversations- but keeping a schedule and making a solid time was hard for them. So I started just hanging at Alter Egos cafe on Wednesdays and telling them to pop in. (In fact its Wednesday and I’m nursing a beautiful cup of java right now).
I have also discovered some pretty sweet benefits to not hiding in my home office all week or bouncing around too much from cafe to cafe for meeting up with people who want to meet – here’s two of my favourite discoveries::
1. Broadening the Conversations
Being here allows me to hear and engage in a wider variety of conversations. It is an international hostile after all. There are people here from all over the world. Backpacking the East Coast but ready to answer questions, ask questions and engage conversations. These conversations give me some unique insight into culture and faith. They often help me clarify the applications of theology that I might be studying at the time or sharpen my internal ears to how to care or to discover the presuppositions that people hold in a broader way. By far I would argue that I have benefited usually more than those with whom I am talking. I’ve discovered if in these times you take the posture of a learner you build up a credibility to ask a lot of questions and are in turn asked to contribute truth into what is being said.
2. Getting the Invites
There is a wide variety of non-profits and small businesses in the Northend of Halifax – because it is both an at risk community and is beginning to feel the pressure of gentrification. Many of the coordinators, owners, volunteers, employees will come through the door in the run of a day. Over the seven years that I have been hanging here I’ve got invites to birthday parties, business recognitions, funerals, AAmeetings, a wedding and even today got asked to bring my family to a Hope Blooms supper. These are invitations for me, a Pastor- Reverend- minister (you know one of those religious guys most people avoid talking with) to party with my neighbours. From a strictly Bible point of view- I think that happened to Jesus a lot. He got invites into his community. So much so he got accused by the religious right of his day of being a drunkard and being just like the irreligious people he would hang out with.
Maybe this is why many who call themselves Christians or Christian leaders, or are simply seen as religious don’t get the invites to engage into the lives of people outside of their religious circles? Maybe they have stopped making it a priority, or have never made it a priority, to simply be in the places (do a small part of life with) where they might feel uncomfortable or others might judge them, or they might feel challenged or awkward- even though the founder of both their faith and their salvation Commissions them to go (and as they are going )make (other) disciples.
What do you think are some of the reasons we don’t get invited to participate in the lives of those in our community?
K- my coffee’s cold and a couple of friends are talking about if there is such a thing as hell or punishment…. gotta go!