Greetings from Denver! I’m a week into my internship with AfterHours and want to give an update on what I’ve been up to.
However, I want to first remind everyone in good ol’ Virginia that the house church is still going strong while I am away. This upcoming Sunday they will be taking a group hike and having dinner, communion and good times in the great outdoors! Meet at the house at 5:30. I’m sad to miss this because it’s sure to be a great time. You should go and tell me all about it! On Aug 11th and 18th they will continue the stories series, sharing personal stories and learning about how our stories are inter-connected with God’s story. And don’t forget EMBARK the Park on Saturday, August 24th!
So…. Denver. It’s been an incredible experience thus far. I’ve been downtown in the park everyday handing out lunches, I attended my first AfterHours gathering at the Irish Snug, and I’ve had the opportunity to check out several other churches and organizations. In between these adventures I’ve had time to explore the city and bit of the mountains as well.
Here are a few experience that have struck me and made me ponder…
My first day at the park I was excited and a little unsure of what to expect. I travelled there with AJ, the previous intern, and we got there a bit early. A line had already formed for the lunches and I was able to chat with a few people. I met Tyrone, who used to be homeless and now comes to the park to help out. He told me all about his poetry and how much of a blessing it is to have interns like me helping people who are hungry. Tyrone gave me an incredible first interaction at the park.
That same day I met a woman named Mary Jane who drives over 45 minutes to bring lunches that she makes herself. She heard about AfterHours and really wanted to help out, so she started showing up once a week with a bunch of stuff. She is completely awesome and the moment I loved best was when she started talking to a man named Hill-Billy. She told him her name and he replied with a laugh, “Your name is Mary Jane! I smoke Mary Jane!” He thought it was hilarious, and obviously, I thought it was too. It was a beautiful, awkward moment where two of God’s children connected in an authentic way. That’s the stuff God’s dream is made of.
One afternoon after serving lunch, I was walking down the 16th street mall, which is a fairly popular destination and nice part of town. A man in a wheelchair asked if I had any money. And, I lied. I said that I didn’t have anything for him. Every day that I’ve been here I’ve been asked for money. Sometimes I give a dollar or 25 cents, but that time, I straight-up lied. And it’s been eating at me because I so often don’t know what to do or how to respond. There are so many “Please help” signs and so many stories about losing jobs and feeding children and needing bus fare or medical treatment. And I don’t know what to do. Perhaps I should just stay in that space and listen.
Serving communion to a line of 50-75 homeless people is an incredible, rewarding, holy, slightly terrifying experience. The first day I served I had a man refuse communion and tell me that he himself was communion. After that, a very loud, boisterous, and theatrical man came up to the (folding) table, kneeled, grasped the table, and started shouting about the messiah. We picked up the cup so he wouldn’t spill it. Then, he opened his mouth wide. Yes, I will a little confused and a little hesitant. But I placed the bread on his tongue and reminded him how much God loves him.
One of my first adventures in Denver was to the Inner City Parish, which is an organization that focuses on eradicating hunger and supplying an education for those who need it. I went to a worship service there. It was in an interesting neighborhood that seems to be moving toward gentrification. That’s happening a lot here in Denver. And while I love cute coffee shops, trendy bars and upscale apartments, the poor are being pushed out or crammed together. But back to the Parish. The service was awesome. I loved it because it contained a traditional liturgical design, welcoming and grace-filled theology, Spanish songs of peace, communal sharing of joys and struggles, a laid back worship space and, best of all, banana splits! The people there had lots to mourn and lots to celebrate, but it was obvious that they enjoy being a part of a community that loves them.
I’ve had many other adventures and witnessed a lot of heartache, celebration, courage and hope. Most of all, I think I’m learning that sometimes, less is more. Perhaps God’s dream doesn’t require more meetings, or steering committees, or buildings, or well-designed plans, or even people talking about God. Perhaps it’s about showing up with a smile and a sandwich and saying, “Hey, I’m glad you’re here.”