My Journey with Church Without Walls
“Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith, you are welcome here.”
This is our service’s opening statement. Said, muttered, or grumbled, we voice it together. Everything flows from this. Every Sunday at 1 p.m., in the Dean’s Garden, weather permitting or in Cummings Chapel, a motley group of us gather for Holy Eucharist followed by a simple bag of food. Pre-COVID we met in the Diocesan Office parking lot with food graciously prepared by many parishes. Times have changed, but our mission hasn’t.
"Recognizing that ‘church’ at its best cannot be contained, this ‘church without walls’ shares the unconditional love of Christ with and through people who ordinarily would not mix. This diocesan ministry calls people from all walks of life into partnership with those who most often are overlooked, forgotten or rejected. We are a ‘community of presence’ made up of individuals looking for spiritual companionship and connection that give meaning to life. We are grounded in the reality that ‘by opening ourselves to strangers, the despised or frightening or unintelligible other, we will see more and more of the holy.’ Again and again, we will be transformed.”
The Rev. Cn. Beth Tjoflat, Diocesan Canon for Urban Ministry, took on this venture in 2012. My involvement started when I was a priest at All Saints Episcopal Church. Once every four months, the Men’s Group would set up tables with serving stations for the platters of barbecue and all the fixings. On other weeks, the meal might be sandwiches, hotdogs or spaghetti. No matter what the meal, the response was always a hearty “Thank you, God!” Parishioners were immersed in a new and wondrous experience of church. And as a result, they could say “Thank God for you.”
We have fewer folks who join us now, but we are growing again. Some say they heard about us and wanted to check it out. Often they come back. Others are struggling with something going on in their life and feel safe with others who are struggling. We’ve had lawyers, nurses and teachers who drop in. All doing well, but want something more in a safe space. We are spread out in the Chapel, masked if wanted, and free to come and go as desired.
“So come to this table, you who have much faith and you who would like to have more; you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time; you who have tried to follow Jesus, and you who have failed; come. It is Christ who invites us to meet him here.”- An Invitation, Iona Abbey.
This is an invitation to all to come and participate in the vibrant urban ministry that is Church Without Walls.
~Fr. Gee Alexander