Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jeff Street Moments...

Easter Confetti
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Another Jeff Street Book excerpt, a story from our Minister to the Homeless, Diane.

Every service at Jeff Street is unusual; you can almost always count on that. Whether it’s a Sunday morning service, Wednesday night prayer meeting, our Urban Goatwalker night, or some other meeting or service happening, you can expect the unexpected. But some moments are especially odd. We call these “Jeff Street Moments.”

It’s the moments like when, during our Prayer Requests time, we get prayer requests for bras or a pack of smokes. It’s the moments like when a worship service is interrupted by one of our regulars who began Happy Hour early.

Jeff Street Moments.

And what’s interesting is that these especially out-of-control moments of grace (or not) seem to always happen whenever we have visitors – family or friends or maybe just a first time visitor – and we are sure that they must be a bit taken by surprise (or outrage or fear, depending…) by these weird moments of church history.
Like the time when, for a sermon illustration, Robert Owens stripped down to his boxer shorts!!

Honestly, it made perfect sense in the context of the sermon, illustrating Jesus’ sermon where He said, “if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well…,” and it was all about demonstrating how Jesus taught how to flip corrupt systems on their head with subversive non-violent behavior, you know?

Really! It made great wacky sense in context!

Anyway, after this object lesson, Robert gathered his clothes and his dignity and was walking back out of the sanctuary to get changed and just at that moment, some first-time visitors walked in late for the service and took one look at Robert wearing his boxers and a smile and Robert, not knowing what else to do as they stood there – eyes bulging and mouths wide open – said, “Good morning! Welcome to Jeff Street!”

They turned around and left.

But that’s not the Jeff-Street-Moment-catching-visitors-by-surprise I wanted to talk about. I told you that story to tell you this one…
We started holding Earth Day services back in the early 1990s. We always hold these services outside, weather permitting, and at one of these first ones, we perhaps went a bit overboard.

Towards the end of the service, we were holding hands, barefoot in the grass, dancing around in a circle around a tree singing with gusto, “Inch by inch, row by row, please bless these seeds I sow. Please keep them safe below 'til the rain comes tumbling down…” like a bunch of hippie tree worshipers.

Of course, it was this Sunday that we had two Southern Baptist Summer Missionaries show up for the first time. And on top of the paganish-feeling service (or at least I’m sure it felt that way to these more traditional young Baptist ladies), there was a part of the service where we talked about our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends, and that had to send them right over the edge.

As it turned out, they stayed on as Summer Missionaries with us, but they were constantly appalled and dismayed and generally miserable at our services. They never got used to the regular Jeff Street stuff, much less those especially odd Jeff Street Moments.

I heard later on that one of these young ladies eventually came out of the closet and embraced her lesbian nature as a gift from God.

I can’t help but wonder and hope that maybe, just maybe, her Jeff Street moments – so uncomfortable and awkward at the time – helped her accept herself, helped her in her walk with God and search for family and community. I don’t know. Maybe not.

I just know that it’s what those skewed moments do for us at Jeff Street. We find that we learn a little more about ourselves, and sometimes a bit about God in those awful, holy moments.

Awkward, uncomfortable, outrageous, distasteful, and maybe, just maybe, filled with God’s grace.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Red barn
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
A story from our Jeff Street book of stories. This is one of my favorites, from our pastor, Cindy...

So, one time this fella was evicted from church for bad behavior. We don’t recall what exactly he was doing now, but he was on the inebriated side of things and was causing a disruption during a Wednesday night mealtime (our Wednesday night prayer meetings are preceded by a dinner where all are welcome, and many often come).

Usually, when this sort of thing happens (and it does happen at times), Diane or Kate or Cindy or one of us (and more often than not, it’s one of our fearless women) will deal with it. Escort someone out, call the cops if necessary. One way or the other, we deal with it.

This time, Cindy escorted him to the door on a cold night, insisting that he had to leave. He argued his way out of the room and argued at the door, and eventually Cindy opened the door, got him outside, and closed the door.

Still, he remained on the other side of the door, yelling at Cindy but Cindy was insistent. She stood her ground on the inside of the door repeating, “No, you just need to go on. Go on. I’ll have to call the police. Go away.”

And the fella just stood right there on the other side of the door, yelling.

Cindy eventually opened the door to tell him to his face he needed to go on, at which point she could hear that he’d been yelling, “My coat’s stuck in the door!”

We don’t always know the reasons for people’s behaviors, and sometimes we never will. But sometimes – sometimes, we just have to listen at least a little.