Saturday, February 02, 2013

Saying Grace, Living Grace

Janet is one of our St. Paul's treasures, a talented pianist who came to The Gathering Place community meal recently. She played before and during the meal, although the murmur of the gathered rose to a dull roar. Janet played while fourteen or fifteen St. Paul's folk served and worked in the kitchen. Several are teens who hardly ever miss.

I thanked Janet a few days later and she offered her observations. She had also played for the first Gathering Place meal, just over two years ago. That initial dinner was just before Christmas, but it wasn't a festive occasion. Guests arrived just in time for the food, they were quiet as they ate, and gone in a flash. Not so this time, and Janet was taken by the contrast.

Even though it was a stormy night and we braced for a small crowd there were close to a hundred guests, along with table hosts and servers. As I did the opening announcements people spoke out, comfortable that they belonged. After the blessing they tucked into an excellent meal, but they managed to talk up a storm as they ate.

Three sweet little girls called out to me; "Dave! Dave!" I chuckle when I think about it. How do they remember I'm "Dave?" How disarmingly familiar. They wanted to show me their games and to tell me about all thirteen pets they have ever had.

A young teen named Diego was there with his family for the meal. This was his first time, but he quickly got up from his table and started serving with a couple of St. Paul's teens who were present as volunteers. We chatted for a while and he is eager to get involved. Another teen who was new to me came over to talk about our new solar panels. He saw the article in the paper. Two men asked if they could tinkle a tune on the piano once Janet was finished. One of them had quite a repertoire of hymns.

I came away from Friday evening with the most powerful sense of the grace of Christ. It washed over me in a way that is difficult to describe. Christ was present in our church hall. In some respects many of our guests are "the least of these" as Jesus described those we often ignore, and yet they are a gift to us --at least to me.

Where you there that Friday evening? Have you taken part in one of the meals? Are you glad St. Paul's hosts this ministerial initiative?


IanD said...

I think it's just the best initiative, really ... and for all of the reasons you've just described.

I always get a kick on the nights where I play when people come up and sheepishly make requests. During the Christmas dinner, I had one old boy come over and we played a little jam together in G. Very cool.

I really hope the meals keep coming even after you're settled in Belleville, David.

Laura said...

That same blustery evening, the chef for that community meal, gladly stayed to talk with our junior youth group. We had invited him because of his "day job" as a director at a local youth outreach program in Oshawa, The Refuge, but also because of his reputation as a generous, caring volunteer at the ecumenical Gathering dinner in our church hall. He lived up to,and beyond expectation in engaging our kids in the need for compassion for those who may seem different from ourselves.....he eyed my bible, a neat street translation I had just discovered, but he used regularly with his clients at the Refuge,asked to borrow it...cracked it open to Matthew....and reminded the kids of the parable of Goats and Sheep...the story of Jesus dividing those who saw the sick, the hungry,the imprisoned and helped (sheep) and those that walked by the sick,hungry,imprisoned stranger and ignored them (goats). Jesus promised His rewards to the sheep and banished the goats.
Last night those same
young ones acted out this parable....a poignant moment for me came when these young goats pleaded that they had
never seen Jesus sick or hungry so he couldn't possibly be disappointed in them.....and the newby member playing Jesus thoughtfully responded that each time they ignored a stranger in need,they ignored him. We strive to be those compassionate, action oriented sheep like the faithful flock of
Gathering volunteers.
Personally my parameter of community and neighbour, brother,sister has grown deeper and broader even just from second hand accounts of The Gathering experience.