It is a quiet Thursday morning. Yesterday was different. Yesterday the church buzzed with activity and noise and hope.
Yesterday was the Under the Oak drop-in breakfast and lunch program. People sat on the steps and talked on the sidewalk while waiting to come in and eat and visit and feel renewed.
Why does this happen week after week? What makes this program different from many programs the church has had that seemed to go for a bit and then fade away? It is undoubtedly the commitment of a core group of committed Christians who just keep going and going. Week after week they come and they get food and they prepare the food and they open the doors and they welcome people in.
At a time when more and more doors are closed to those in need, we are still open because these church members and volunteers keep coming.
As I sit on Thursday morning in the quiet Church I wonder how much it would cost if we paid for all of the donated materials and labor to make this happen. While I haven't sat down and done the numbers, it is clear that this would be an expensive program if not for the big hearts and willing hands of the people who make it work.
Those who work in Under The Oaks know that big hearts and willing hands are not going to solve the problem. As the opioid problem grows, a major part of the homelessness issue, resources are drying up that can effectively address the issues. Even as homelessness becomes an increasingly larger problem, the City of Lowell is closing subsidized housing and in other ways reducing the stock of affordable housing in downtown. The gap between the growing need and what is available to effectively address these issues grows wider and wider.
As we celebrate the willing hearts and hands and minds which keep Under the Oak open, we also acknowledge that we must be a courageous church that not only reaches out our hands and welcomes but also speaks truth to power about what is needed and what is just.
So on this quiet Thursday morning I celebrate that Under The Oaks provides me and the people of this church with an opportunity to be who we are called to be.
What is next as we journey to redeem both the world and ourselves?