Liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez once said, “You say you care about the poor? Then tell me, what are their names?”
People that we label as ‘poor’ or ‘marginalized’ or ‘different from us’ have names, and dreams, and hopes too. It’s important for us to be in close enough proximity to know these things.
Part of my responsibilities here on staff is exploring community partnerships and helping our Mission & Outreach committee discern where God might be calling us in this season. We sent out a survey a couple months ago to get a better idea of where the energy and excitement might be when it comes to being in solidarity with our neighbors and engaging in social justice.
It was clear that a majority of your answers desired prioritizing local opportunities to serve. Some of you stated that with local “we can create real and lasting relationships with our neighbors” and that “charity beings at home and then expands outward.” Many answers also highlighted the importance of having our kids being involved and the ways that opportunities to serve in our community could be truly formative experiences for all involved.
Serving locally does not negate global partnerships, but it was clear that local is something that our parish is wanting to prioritize in this season. As a parish, we read Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle during Lent. I head from many of you that this was an impactful book that increased your desire to be in better solidarity and kinship with our neighbors. I believe kinship is best embodied when we have done both inner and outer work. Inner work involves worshipping together, learning together, engaging in anti-racism practices, and connecting our faith to acts of justice and compassion. Outer work is showing up and being present in the community — creating friendships and learning people’s names and hopes and recognizing that we are deeply interconnected.
Last week we explored a new community partnership with The Dwelling Place, a soup kitchen in Woburn, just eight minutes away from Epiphany. We had a crew of parishioners who cooked a wonderful meal for 45 guests on Friday evening and another crew of mostly youth serving the food on Saturday evening. It was a joy to see our 5th-12th graders leading the way, greeting guests, heating up food, and handing out coffee. We hope to continue to serve there as well as explore new local opportunities. If you know of any, please let me know!
We continue to serve meals at St. Luke’s in Chelsea on the third Saturday of each month. Our Mission & Outreach committee meets on the third Tuesday of each month. We plan to volunteer regularly at the Malden Warming Center this winter, a place that offers overnight housing to the who need it. We have parishioners involved in prison ministry, housing for the Rawan family, education, creation care, food justice, and much more.
I believe we are in an exciting season as a parish. You may have heard talks of discernment and dreaming together. Those conversations are happening for all aspects of Epiphany. There is much we do not know yet about what the future holds. What I do know is that the life of Jesus and the great commandments to love God and love our neighbor are quite clear. Whatever the future holds, I do know that it will involve new and meaningful ways of being in kinship and solidarity with our neighbors. This is how we encounter our shared humanity. This is how we encounter God.
Dreaming and hoping — together!