When I started working with Church on the Street five years ago the culture of the community was such that during prayer time I kept a foot on my backpack to be sure that someone didn’t steal it. During that time I “donated” quite a few of my personal belongings – a computer, several water bottles, a shirt, a jacket, and many other things. It seemed that if something was not nailed down it disappeared quickly. The noise level was deafening when we gathered, as people struggled to be heard over the constant sound of arguing. This was the relationship and culture of the community. We all lived into that reality.
Fast forward five years…
Today, I sat with about 15 men in a local park. We’d finished bible study and lunch and we were reluctant to leave to continue with the rest of our day. I leaned back in my chair and watched the leaves blow in the wind. We sat in silence, each to their own thoughts, totally comfortable with one another, a trust born of companionship free of the chaos of the world. What had changed over the last five years? How did we move from chaos to companionship?
Three years ago we became very intentional in forming community. We moved beyond the typical “homeless ministry”, with the goal of reconciliation between people who may look the same but each has a story and all of the stories are different. Using the “L’Arche” model of forming community, we arranged our day to include prayer, sharing meals, celebrating and playing together and finding each of our gifts of service.
We reflected on what it meant to be family and how families are formed. We insisted on positive participation by all members of the community, and we found that, by involving themselves in these practices, people found meaning in their chaotic lives and value in one another.
Being present, getting to know one another through open conversation creates space where friendships can be formed and trust follows.
Every positive interaction creates a ripple effect that extends to the neighborhood. Change is change no matter how small and often results in a friendly greeting rather than a brush off, people who used to be strangers sitting together, sharing with one another. These actions result from positive interactions and reconciliation between people results.
Many people come back again and again to our group. Lively discussion during bible study, shared work setting up and breaking down for lunch, and being together in comfortable silence permeate our little space in Renaissance Park. Jesus is present and all seems right with the world.
Come join one of our intentional communities around Atlanta as we seek to join our lives together around the reconciling work of Christ: https://remerge.org/what-we-do/reconnect
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