When your heart is touched...

Two little miracles happened to me today. First I spent time with the humble servants of the Christian Center - a local ministry of presence and compassion in Pittsfield - that has been standing with the poor for 150 years. Like many others - Catholic Workers or L'Arche - this group doesn't stop the steady stream of broken souls who become poor and forgotten... but it does catch them with loving arms and feeds, loves and clothes them with great dignity and tenderness.

As we ate lunch with about 100 people, I was introduced to an old Black woman who told me she has been HIV+ for the past 15 years. "I'm going to one of the schools tomorrow to tell my story and let them kids know that HIV doesn't have to be a death sentence." As I left the center with two of my church mates, it was clear that our hearts had been touched and we knew that we have to stay connected to this place - for our own souls!

Yes, we have some resources to share - and will - and yes we might find others ways to be helpful, too. But we need to be stay connected so that the face of Jesus is always close by and real. It made me think of this scene from Zeffirelli's "Brother Sun, Sister Moon."



If you know the story, Francis has given up his very affluent life for a ministry dedicated to literally rebuilding a church ruin in San Damiano. He experienced a vision from Jesus during worship to "rebuild my church." So he did - stone by stone - and as he did others joined him. Mostly the poor and discarded at first, but some of his rich friends, too. And little by little, they created a community of hope and sharing that attracted others. This clip happens at the dedication of the new chapel.


Yeah, I know it is filled with 1970s romantic hippie images - give me a break - but it also speaks a deep truth: without staying intimately connected to the most wounded, the church Jesus gave birth to with his life will die and lose its soul in the bullshit of business as usual.

Which brings me to the second little miracle: a potential partnership with one of the major arts organizations in town. We have a lot to work out - and learn about one another - but today we set in motion a process that could create a relationship with their youth theatre and help us both advocate for teens in a unique way. We both celebrate the importance of beauty and creativity, we both want to contribute to the rebuilding of this wounded town and we both understand that sharing and partnership is complicated - churches and theaters have not always worked well together - but we could. And I think there are signs that we will, too.

So I rejoice because if we can make it happen, we will have to change. Become more open and fun and connected to a whole new community. And they will have to change and learn to work with an established congregation in a new way. But we could learn to share space and expertise and do some projects together so that the whole area benefits... which is a small blessing amidst all the darkness. Eugene Peterson says it so well:

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