Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Church with Showers

A church with showers is a wonderful thing - especially in the heart of the city. Having showers at Mount Vernon Place was something I thought about before I arrived - part of the vision God gave to me when I was given a few select details about the church I might be appointed to serve.

A few years later, the showers are here. There are two showers in the men's room and two showers in the women's room. There are lockers and space to change, too. The showers are here - available for the church to host overnight guests and also for others to come in and receive a simple necessity of life - something most of us take for granted when we stumble into our bathrooms eyes half-closed, mumbling how we would rather still be in bed.

A year or so ago, several people in the church started to investigate what we could do with these showers. They visited shelters, churches and other facilities blessed with spaces where others could come inside and shower, having their dignity restored in the process. A policy was created and past by the Trustees. The showers opened four months ago. Each Tuesday morning, the showers at the church are available from 6:00 to 8:00. Anyone can come inside and shower.

The ministry has been going for four months. I have read about it and heard about it. However, I had never seen the ministry in action until this week. I have plenty of reasons - at first it was a standing commitment each Tuesday morning from 7:15 to 8:00, I then got excited about something happening at the church that I did not have to be at (it's powerful to be a pastor and see the laity embracing their call to be the priesthood of all believers), and I then allowed long days at the church to dictate why I could not be here at 6:00 towards the start of the week. I realize now that while these are valid excuses, perhaps I allowed some of my insecurities and fears to really keep me away. It's messy business, after all, when you start to take the gospel seriously. It's easier to stand at a distance than to get involved. It's easier to see people than it is to take time and listen to a person's story. And, it's certainly easier to separate ourselves into "us" and "them" than it is to seek to bridge the divide - something our lay leader spoke more eloquently about on Sunday than I am writing about here.

Thankfully, however, I finally arrived at the church a few minutes after 6:00 on Tuesday morning. I placed all of my belongings in my office upstairs and then came downstairs to the lobby near the doors to the showers. And, I saw grace the moment I walked through the door.
My eyes were captivated by a table filled with many things - men's boxers and briefs of all sizes, women's underwear in several sizes, socks, shampoos, conditioners, towels, clean shirts, tooth brushes and paste, and several kinds of deodorant. Everything was there on the table - everything was available to be taken. Opposite of this table was a table where hot coffee was being brewed and granola bars and fruit were being set out. Everything was being carefully prepared, readied for our guests.

Soon our guests started to arrive, and I am not sure I have been the same since. I wrote these words to the coordinators of the ministry yesterday afternoon:

You are both good at sharing your reflections with others after being here on Tuesday mornings. I want to share my reflections with you – and mainly express my deepest sense of gratitude and respect.

I experienced grace the moment I walked in. Perhaps it was good to be a few minutes late as I walked in and saw a table filled with necessities – with things I take for granted all the time – but morsels that people carefully selected and took into the shower room this morning. I was reminded of the Syrophoenician woman who responds to Jesus about how even the crumbs that fall from the table are blessings. It was a powerful display for my eyes to see.

I think I was particularly touched and transformed by one of our visitors, Sipea (sp?) this morning. She will be heavy on my heart this day, causing me to reflect and think often. I was touched by her saying how a shower was just what she needed. I was struck by how she bowed before so many of us expressing thanksgiving. I was struck by how she wanted to give us $5. And, her appearing to be so incredibly alone will haunt me with the questions of what more we can do. She’s entered my heart, for sure.

Gregory was typical Gregory. He drives me crazy, and yet, I enjoy hearing him say, “You know, Miss Donna?”

And, there is something powerful about watching people select a pair of clean underwear – something I’ll think about when I open my dresser drawer and see a collection of dozens of pairs to select from – and the power of being grateful for one clean, new pair – one pair – not dozens of pairs.

All of this is to say, thank you. Thank you for providing me with an experience of grace this morning. Thank you for allowing me to see God’s goodness in my life and in the lives of those around me. Thank you for your commitment and organization and passion that continue to propel this ministry.

I am sincerely grateful, and I look forward to continuing to work with you as we discern our next faithful steps together.

Have a blessed day.

Glad to be your pastor,


This afternoon I was walking down the street when I heard someone calling my name, "Miss Donna, Miss Donna, Miss Donna!" I looked over and saw Gregory sitting on a bench in a park. I said, "Hello" to Gregory, and Gregory shouted again, "Miss Donna, I got to go to the dentist today!" I smiled and shared, "That's great." I then chuckled as I watched the people around me gaze at this man yelling to me on the sidewalk. As I continued to walk, I realized again how much I love this community.

1 comment:

cheryl said...

What a great post! Thank you for sharing this from your perspective. I loved how Gregory saw you later that day!

Interesting too, after just having seen the movie The Second Chance as part of our reconciling ministry with Asbury and the message of what downtown churches should be all about in providing urban ministry. Thanks, Donna!