Summer Stories – A Mission Update

Dear friends,

Thank you for praying for me, checking in on me, and for those who support me financially. My life would not be possible if it weren’t for the support of the People of God.

I gained a Nephew over the summer and thus I will be in England from the 6th to the 13th of September. Do let me know if you’d like to hang out!

Over the summer I have:

  1. Furthered my Master’s program with an academic conference in England (read my latest paper here).
  2. Established a place for worship and prayer in my apartment, and began hosting two services a week there. I lead worship for over 20 people in various midweek services.
  3. Led at a service celebrating the marriage of two dear friends.
  4. Joined in with the efforts to respond to the tragic shooting at the Capital Gazette.
  5. Coordinated the provision of over 300 lunches to be distributed by a local homeless resource center.
  6. Had my visa extended a further two and a half years.
  7. Been licensed as a Lay Eucharistic Minister by the Bishop.
  8. Seen ever more people become connected to the community I lead and become friends.
  9. Preached a couple of half-decent sermons.
  10. Coordinated and led a Sunday service by myself, allowing Pastor Steve to have a week off.

Scroll to the bottom to see some great pictures from some of these events!

Your support has enabled many people to join in with a consistent life or prayer, fellowship, love, and service. I have over twenty people per week who join me for Compline or Evensong services at my apartment right in the heart of Downtown Annapolis. I serve around a dozen people at the Lutheran Mission Society chapel service, and I have helped Sunday attendance at Redeemer grow, as well as leading a monthly act of service, 100 bagged lunches for the homeless.

We call this Second Sunday Sandwiches, because we do this after worship on Second Sundays of the month. We have taken on this responsibility every month for the foreseeable future, and it has been wonderful to see this become an all-age and all-ability inclusive event. We have even seen people walk in to help who have no connection to the church and aren’t particularly interested in worshipping with us, but they do want to find a way to help their neighbors and this provides a way and a place to do so.

I have also seen a consistent group of Christians who would never agree on attending the same church as each other on a Sunday morning, come together to sing and pray twice a week. In this we begin to experience what Jesus called the church to be, a community of love called out from the divisions of the world. This has also been a fruitful place where new friendships have developed, people unburden themselves of their struggles, and we learn to value people with whom we disagree. Prayer is the reason the rich and diverse community I serve is able to function, for when we have no other reason to be together, the occasion of worship is enough. I have been thrilled to work with a few young musicians, who have only grown in confidence and competence as music leaders for worship. It is a real privilege to see this happen.

We have come to know one another, bear each other in prayer when we are absent and rejoice in each other’s victories. Recently a young man joined our community. He works in an important local office but he had lived in Annapolis for two years without friends. The people he has met at my house have quickly accepted him, and sought him out to spend time with him. We are an abundant community, and we seem to outdo one another in welcoming outsiders and newcomers.

There is a former Marine called J who sleeps rough around the downtown area. I first met him at the Chapel service where he was receiving assistance. My housemates have become friendly toward him and he helped us move some furniture from down the block. I don’t know when was the last time he felt as though he had something to offer, something he could do for someone else, but it is important that those who appear to be in deep need are also reminded that they have something worthwhile to give.

Some of the downtown beggars are frustrating. There is a man who sits at one of the bus stops and asks for lunch money. I met him years ago, and offered to buy him lunch. I went to a Subway around the corner and when I came back, he was gone. He probably wasn’t looking to eat. I try to be friendly to him of course and every now and then he appears at the Mission chapel for assistance. The other day he was sitting on a bench near my front door, and as I was walking past he flagged me down, calling “Pastor! Pastor!”. I was frustrated that he was calling on me, because he only wants whatever change he can extract. However I sit down with him and he opens by asking me to pray with him. He has relatives who are very unwell, and children who he does not see. We held hands and prayed together, and almost yearning to say so, he prays to God to ask his help for his substance addiction. I told him how glad I was to pray with him, and I reach into my pocket to check if I have any cash to hand him. Much to my surprise he asks me for nothing – and I was wrong to think that he was ‘putting on’ religion to get me to give him something. He wanted to pray, and he knew that I would stand with him before the Lord. He gave me an opportunity to pray and give glory to God, and I was glad to give him my time and relationship.

I love being able to witness these moments, watching a community grow and watching the members explore their gifts, being available to those who are excluded from their communities or families, enabling the wider community to find a voice. I love that I get to tell you all about these moments, because I think it gives glory to God. I hope we can continue to encourage each other. All I do is invite people over to pray, and sing, and talk, and steadily people of all ages and walks of life come passing through and learn to lean on one-another in the strength God provides. It’s not fancy or innovative. It’s the Book of Common Prayer and a couple of couches.

I am grateful that my ministry has been acknowledged by the Bishop. It was encouraging to know that I am not some kind of outlaw, doing my own thing and going my own way, but that the wider church who have seen my ministry desire to recognize it formally. With my visa having been extended, I wonder what this says about what is to come.

 

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Packing the 100 lunches we make each month. See more photos.
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Join me in praying for Mr and Mrs Weaver as they begin their married life together. It was a privilege to celebrate with them and walk them through Premarital counseling.
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I helped design this space which was set aside for people to come and write letters mourning the loss of life at the tragic shooting at the Capital Gazette.
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