This is not my church. I know it from afar. A transgender homeless woman who looked after me, a stranger who lived on the street for a while, told me about the early morning breakfasts at this church for hungry people and people with empty pockets.
We discussed our plans the night before going to bed, she on the porch of the second floor of an abandoned house, I on the porch of the first floor. She was going to go to church to clean up a bit and have breakfast. I skipped meals and went to bed.
On another occasion I spent the night at the door of this church with two young, unprotected, lost couples. Nobody chased us away. So grateful!
My first meal there was early in the morning, exhausted from wandering the streets with my backpack and blanket, and too tired to wait in line for food, I curled up in my chair at the round table. A scary old man with a long gray beard, disheveled hair and shabby clothes came up to me and said: “You look better. You slept last night. I’ve been watching you. I knew this man only by appearance. He wandered around the city, dragging a huge transparent plastic bag filled with garbage. People gave him a place on the sidewalk and made way for him. I’ve never heard him speak before.
This large church, with impressive real estate and two stately buildings facing each other on busy Lavaca Street in downtown Austin, probably hosts several services every Sunday. I have never set foot in a sanctuary. Never sat on a bench. Never listened to a sermon or a choir. I bet they have Sunday School groups, Bible study classes, and confirmation programs designed to prepare people of all ages to fully participate in life.
The breakfast they host is a manifestation of learning, understanding good news, and possessing a higher message – love your neighbor and serve those in need.
How? Walk humbly, radiate joy, feel kinship, get your hands dirty, accept inconvenience, listen quietly, notice needs, absorb pain, remain steadfast, know fatigue, open your heart, don’t judge, start over. This is how you must live in order to be truly human and Christlike.
So many people in the world enjoy Christmas – wrapping gifts, cutting trees, singing carols, putting on plays, putting on festive dresses and preparing traditional menus. Then, on New Year’s Eve or after Epiphany, wreaths are removed from doors and windows, decorations are removed from trees, and lamps and decorations are stored in attics or basements. Diets are becoming the subject of attention of those who celebrated the season at the laid tables.
Lessons and carols are forgotten. Churches are empty. Gifts are hidden or exchanged. Maritime surveillance resumes. The self becomes the ultimate concern for most of us.
Winter in many parts of the world threatens with fierce winds and snow or ice covering landscapes, houses and roads. Placed people are worried about freezing. This attack of nature consumes our attention. We get news to turn off our outdoor taps, cover our fragile outdoor plants with blankets, and bring our pets inside.
Minor mention is made of a few places where homeless people can go during the freeze. We, the residents, are not called upon to wrap our fellow citizens in coats and blankets to protect them from extreme cold so that they survive. We must be sensible, practical, and protect our home, garden, and pets.
Fortunately, some churches, such as First United Methodist, which serve breakfast, are ready for a long service. They have not forgotten the lessons and hymns, the Bible stories, or what the Christmas message really means.
As with the December event, this church has hosted a Feed My People breakfast every fourth Tuesday from 5:15 to 7:30 for 23 years. Their ministers, parishioners and invited volunteers come in at night to prepare meals, arrange seating arrangements, arrange a buffet with breakfast casseroles – vegetarian, with bacon or sausage – pancakes with homemade syrup, fresh fruit and coffee, hot chocolate. , and orange juice.
Soon they will be ready to greet God’s people with a smile. Coming to work is what they do. Saints are what they become.
Feed my people.
And everyone was fed.
Judy Knotts is a parishioner of St. John Neumann Catholic Church and former head of St. Gabriel Catholic School and St. Michael Catholic Academy.