Once upon a time, Dr. Daisy Machado (a friend) and I led a group of graduate students to the border of Texas and Mexico. It was part of a class that was studying the borderlands with an interest in policy change. Over the course of five days, we would drive on both sides of the border, visiting “colonias,” which are poor, unincorporated communities, the maquilas, corporate factories that normally wreaked with horrific injustices, churches, legal offices, non-profits, orphanages, and more. I remember that one evening, two days in, the group took an emotional dive. Having learned names, visited homes, heard stories, experienced a bit of life with those who were desperately poor in a terribly oppressive, multi-national relationship, the graduate students acknowledged that even if policy change would occur, the toll on human life between the time of that evening’s conversation and the time of change felt overwhelming. Additionally, as they acknowledged, the “issues” came to be real, human beings that they cared about.
By the end of our trip, there were significant breakthroughs as emotions and hopes were resurrected. Among other things, the “visitors” to the Valley of Texas-Mexico made many new friends and realized how blessed they were by the relational exchange. Also, their passion for change was fueled by the personal, relational connection. Justice was no longer from their imagination, it had a new look thanks to the teachers – those who were recipients of injustice. This fueled a greater passion for policy change, but it also brought about a desire to return home and serve people who had recently immigrated from Mexico and Central America. Direct, relational care for people in their current need and policy change to decrease the occurrence of such need became “both/and” as expressions of God’s love.
The love to which we are called as part of Christ’s Church calls us to expand of our lives into the life and movement of God in real, tangible ways that seek to shape the world as God would have it. Our life, as a congregation and as faithful people, is our spiritual life. Nothing is to be excluded. Every way that human beings relate to one another, whether neighbors talking in the yard or “neighbors” joined in an economic or transnational political system, are the area of God’s concern, want, and call.
Our ministry at All Pilgrims deserves celebration, whether it be the new efforts of the greeters who put a kind, welcoming face and embrace to the church for those who enter, or those who I hear downstairs, laughing and talking, as they prepare a meal to serve to hungry and homeless neighbors in a couple of hours. Additionally, our expanding ministry moves us further to see how capable we are when encountering the brokenness of the world.
Seattle is a city with troubling increase of families and children who are homeless. The city and county has yet to establish effective housing policies for homeless families, and, as reported in a January 22 Seattle Times article, King County’s recent attempts to better housing services has shown to be ineffective, even problematic, in many ways. Steve Clagett and Theresa Hohman are working with a group from Plymouth to bring about an economic justice event in March. The movie “Inequality for All” will be a gathering point. This is reason for celebration as this, and our recent participation in the Seattle Council of Churches conversation on livable wages, provide additional opportunity for ministry at All Pilgrims. This is faithful work that impacts families and children in God’s world.
God’s call to represent and re-present the Gospel moves us to recognize and act in the fullness of human relationship. In a city with a growing number of poor and homeless families, our faith compels us to feed the hungry, seek economic justice, consider by our faith the upcoming vote for an increased minimum wage, and more. It compels us to greet and relate to people on Sunday, to soul-search and God-search in study and sharing classes, and to respond to God’s call for a just economy, all with the same love. While just relationships are sought, there are many who are in need, today, who can’t wait. That we are “both/and” church, seeking to love people in their immediate need, as well as co-create with God a world that is just, is a beautiful, life-giving thing to us. Imagine how much more our faith and hearts may be moved if, and when, we come to know the names of the families and children seeking shelter for the night. May the God who calls us all by name, keep moving our hearts to live big in transforming ministry.