Like many cities in our county the homeless are part of daily life. They are a presence on the street, sitting in outdoor cafes and congregating in the large park across from the downtown library. The city would like to reclaim the park as a pleasant downtown meeting place. There is a park committee that plans events in the park like concerts and food festivals. Mostly what people are aware of though are the homeless with their backpacks or strollers piled high with their earthly goods. They hang out, some sleep through the hottest time of the day, while others walk talking to themselves or a companion. If you go downtown, it's a fact of life that you will see, hear, smell or otherwise be engaged by someone who is lives on the street. I've heard people say they do not go downtown just for this fact.
The Church Without Walls gathers every Sunday a few blocks from the downtown park. People come for a traditional Episcopal service served outside in a parking lot surrounded by a hill and a few trees. The priest, Mother Beth, welcomes all, preaches the Word of God and serves up the body and blood of Christ. All are welcome including those who don't have to live on the street or in downtown shelters. Folks from my church, The Well, were there this past Sunday. Together we sat on the hill or stood under a shady tree. It was already near summer time hot. Bottles of water were available in coolers around the parking lot. We sang, prayed, and read the days lectionary texts led by members of the Church Without Walls. We passed the peace and ate the bread and drank the cup together. Then it was getting late and people were hungry and thirsty. It was time for us to go to our homes and the others to go back to the street. Wait, Jesus said, don't go away before you have something to eat. Eat? Some of us did not have any food with us to share. Some of us depended on the generosity of others to eat most days. Give what you have and you will have enough, Jesus said. So, some of us went to cars and brought out crock pots of soup, and bags of sandwiches and fruit. A table was set and very soon a line formed filling cups with soup. Ten crock pots were quickly emptied. Everyone left full and there were some leftovers. The Word on the hill, the body and blood, even the leftovers - we had heard of this miracle and now we had experienced it.