During this program year, we have created a partnership between our formation and mission efforts. Focused on the issue of hunger, our adults and children not only have been learning about the causes and experience of hunger, we also have been working to serve the hungry in our community. The idea is that both our learning and our service would be richer if we had both in mind simultaneously. In other words, as we are learning about hunger, or considering Christ’s call to feed the hungry, we might remember a specific person we had met, or the stories we had heard while at the local feeding ministry. Or, while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our low-income earning neighbors, we might remember the book we read about how hard making ends meet on minimum wage is.
What I have loved about this partnership is the way that God is working in spite of us. For example, this Epiphany, we are reading a book called Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. I had the sessions planned out before Christmas – five reading sessions followed by a work or learning day at our local food pantry where we regularly make donations. Then, at the beginning of January, we received word that another of our regular ministries, making sandwiches for a local feeding program, had been scheduled in the middle of one of our classes, unbeknownst to us. We all panicked for a moment – I did not want to lose students, and the Outreach coordinators did not want to lose sandwich-makers. But then it occurred to us – why couldn’t we do both? If we were supposed to be integrating our service and learning, what better way than to make sandwiches for an hour, and then sit to discuss the challenges facing the kinds of people who would be eating our sandwiches?
What often feels like a conflict or inconvenience is instead the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is gracing us with an abundance of opportunities to affect change – change in others, change in the world, and change in ourselves. We just need to listen.
This spring we are working on forming a new ministry, and I am ever aware of the need for guidance from the Holy Spirit. I have ideas. Many of our parishioners have ideas. But what might be critical is for us to also hear what the Holy Spirit is doing among us – which might be different (and ultimately better) than anything we could have imagined on our own. Lord, keep us open to the movement of your Spirit.