Family Circus Night at the Prayer Truck

Prayer Truck is for families too!

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Here’s a report from Nick and Rachel King who brought the whole family out to play/pray!

What happens when you forget it is your shift at the Prayer Truck? You can’t find a baby sitter and you drag your three little kids down town at bed time to hang in a back alley and chill with the “local colour”. Norrie defaced the prayer wall with her art, Abigail adopted a “baby rock” she found in the alley that she insisted on repeatedly licking and Molly barfed on my last clean shirt. They didn’t want to leave to go home to bed and it was SUPER cute watching them eagerly handing water out to some of the roughest looking characters I have ever seen. It turned into the Family Circus Night at the prayer truck, but it will go down as one of my favorite memories with them. Thanks for loving Hamilton with the Prayer Truck GOHOP!

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We run until July 23, so there is still time to bring your families out to the truck!  We’re behind 30 Wilson St. (the Living Rock).

On Wednesday July 23 at 7 pm we’re closing it out with a celebration and a free barbecue!

 

 

Obed House of Prayer in Victoria, B.C.

I first met Mary and Doug at the National HOP Summit in Winnipeg.

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“We’ve just been appointed Directors of the Obed House of Prayer. We’ve been HOP Directors now for about a week!”

“Might as well jump off the deep end,” I grinned.

We hit it off right away. Even liked the same books!

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Red Moon Rising just wrecked us, and set us on the path to the House of Prayer.”

It made sense then, when I next visited the west coast, to go visit the Obed House of Prayer in Victoria.

I spent the afternoon on the beach with Mary and Doug, praying, chatting about all things House of Prayer, watching the curious seal that kept swimming by to investigate us, and telling bad seal puns. “It’s God’s seal of approval!”

Later in the evening, we went to their prayer facility on, wait for it…

Obed street.

There I met other members of the community.

There was Jeremy, with a cherubic grin, and hair buzzed into a Mohawk. He is a frontline street worker, bringing food and the presence of Jesus to the transient and gang related youth in the city.

I met Stuart, a local pastor who had given over his sanctuary for Obed’s use all week long. He and several members of Obed demonstrate their love for Jesus by serving the city and cleaning out the houses of local hoarders. A job that the city couldn’t afford to do, and couldn’t find anyone to do. I heard stories of them climbing over four foot walls of garbage, cleaning inches of sludge off bathroom floors, and making a birthday cakes for one of their clients.

After coffee, strawberries and conversation, someone pulled out a guitar and we got down to business.

Almost immediately, the sweetness of His presence descended on us.

They weren’t in a rush, but just lingered quietly in His presence. Hushed and reverent. As a community, they had a tender sensitive posture towards The Lord. Loving Him and knowing they are loved by Him. They were as equally open and tender hearted to me as well, making me feel very loved and welcome.

The Biblical meaning of the word Obed is worship and service.

They are, in my estimation, aptly named. And I look forward to a long friendship.

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Avoiding the Potholes: Advice for the New Monastic and House of Prayer Movement

I’m off to Vancouver again!  This time, I’m attending a three day retreat for practitioners, theologians, and writers in the New Monastic movement, many of whom I have never met before.  In preparation for the meeting, I’m reading some of their books so I will have a sense of the conversation to date.

I’m really enjoying Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton: Reflections on Identity, Community, and Transformative Action by Charles Ringma.

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I find Merton a bit lofty and hard to understand, but Ringma with his Reformed sensibilities brings him down into my orbit.  The book is comprised of short reflections on Merton’s teaching, and has become a lovely addition to my daily quiet time.

Another book I read was Living Faithfully in a Fragmented Word by Jonathan R. Wilson.

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Wilson is very much an academic, and at points I thought my little brain might explode, but I found some of his conclusions at the end of the book easier to grasp.

Wilson outlines some potential potholes – dangers and hazards for the New Monastic (I jumble the House of Prayer movement in with this, and feel like they apply equally to us as HOPs) movement.  Here they are in bite sized chunks:

1.  Communal Egotism – it could be very tempting for us as prayer and justice communities, to think that we are God’s gift to the church and to the world.  In one sense, we have to live as a prophetic witness in lifestyles radically reoriented to prayer, mission and justice, but we need to do so in meekness, bringing our egos to the cross.

2.  Utopianism – Bonhoeffer comments that idealism is the enemy of community.  We think that somehow we can get things right where the church has got it wrong.  The reality is that the close sharing of life in communities is very challenging.  We can hide our sin when aloof to one another, but when we live in deep community we are confronted with it at every turn.

3.  Romanticism – we can look back at the history of the prayer movement or monasticism with rose colored glasses, and miss the reality that within them there was mess, controversy, and many practices that did not survive the test of time.  We must not be daunted by the messiness and uncertainty of following the Holy Spirit into a new thing.  We must not sugar coat or romanticize the struggle.

4.  Utilitarianism – we can fall into the error of thinking that our way of life is a useful way to live in a fragmented world.  This is not a way to “make our lives better”, says Wilson.  This is a way to form life faithful to the gospel.

5.  Pelagianism – we can think that the formation and faithfulness of our communities “depends upon human ability and effort to  the exclusion of God’s grace.”  Symptoms of this include anxiety, blaming, resentment, overwork, Sabbath breaking, etc.

The advantage of so many having gone before us in the New Monastic/House of Prayer movement, is that we have the blessing of being able to learn from their known failure paths.  We might forge some new ones of our own (eeek), but at least we have been informed and enriched by their journey.

 

 

Are You a Tree or Are You a Bird? Conversations with David Janzen

Last night I was at Grandview Calvary Baptist Church meeting with David Janzen and various intentional community practitioners from downtown Vancouver. We had representatives from Servants, 614 Community, Catholic Workers, Grandview, and L’Arche.

” David,” I said, shaking his hand. “I met you in Toronto. Likely I will just follow you all over North America.” I grinned. He grinned back.

Our conversation skipped along the surface of intentional community issues, like a rock skipping across the water. It was fascinating and encouraging to see how common many of our experiences (and struggles) were.

One topic that came up was stability.

“An analogy that helps us understand stability, community, and the kingdom, is the analogy of the mustard seed. It’s small, the size of a conversation, a longing. But you put it in the ground and it grows, and the birds can land and nest. It’s like that with our communities. Trees, branches, birds, all in one community. The tree has taken a vow of stability.  The birds haven’t.  Sometimes the birds eat the leaves and complain there is no shade.” Again he grins, and we laugh.

“Birds take the seeds elsewhere.  They poop on and fertilize the ground. The birds bless the tree, the tree blesses the birds.”

“Wherever I share this, people know right away, whether they are a tree or a bird.”

Kirk and I are trees. We know we have been called to put down roots in the community for the long haul. City transformation is measured in decades, not in mere years, and we want to be around long term to see God’s story for Hamilton unfold.

What are you? A tree or a bird? Both bless each other. Both have a role to play in the cultivation of God’s purposes.

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Resources for Communities: The Complexities of Hospitality

It’s been almost there years since we embarked on our grand experiment of intentional community and radical hospitality. The first glow of enthusiasm and novelty has long since worn off, and we are well into the work of grappling with the challenges of life together and the complexities of welcoming “the stranger” into that life.

Just to clarify, I’m not using the word hospitality in the way our current culture often uses it. I’m not talking about making our space and table layout “Martha Stewart-esque”, and inviting our close friends over to enjoy it. That is entertaining, not hospitality.

Christine Pohl, in what I consider the definitive book on Hospitlity, Making Room, makes it clear that the Biblical definition of hospitality is welcoming the stranger. The other. The one not like you.

That brings all manner of complexities. Pohl, in her companion book, “Living into Community – Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us, outlines some of them.

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1. Burnout – Sabbath keeping, rest and renewal. Knowing when to close the doors. Knowing when to give what Chris Heureutz in his book on community Unexpected Gifts, calls the gift of absence. Kirk and I took a much needed week away this month, road tripping to other communities, and it refreshed us. Our housemates take advantage of any opportunity to house sit, so that they can enjoy a living space all alone from time to time.

2. Safety – How do we know if the stranger is safe? Recently we had a young man coming by the house regularly asking for a bowl of cereal. Initially we let him in, but found out from some street wise friends that he was active in addiction to crack and had a reputation of violence, and his motives to accessing our home might be in question. So we stopped inviting him in. Third spaces, like the Prayer Truck, larger dinners like Spaghetti Tuesday, give more “public” places for us to get to know the stranger and to assess the risk.

3. Are We Being Used? – What about when people take advantage of our hospitality? When does Spaghetti stop being an inclusive “family” dinner and when does it morph into just another soup kitchen? What do we do when offering someone a couch for a couple night stretches into weeks? Clarifying expectations and setting boundaries early on become very helpful.

4. Limited Resources – What if there isn’t enough? Pohl contends that as we welcome strangers, we can anticipate God’s Presence and supply. But we cannot ignore our finiteness, and we cannot ignore our responsibilities to our family, and the vulnerable ones we have already welcomed. We are presently looking into creative ways to help fund Spaghetti Tuesday, because our commitment to it was depleting our personal resources, and we started having to eat rice and beans a lot.

5. What if we are met with ingratitude? – Is it enough just to serve for the sake of Christ, even if we are not appreciated by those around us?

6. If we welcome strangers into our community, couldn’t they threaten our way of life? – Not everyone who comes through our door will share our perspectives. That is not so much of an issue in brief acts of welcome, but becomes increasingly more challenging in long term relationships. What parts of our identity and commitments are central to who we are?

Pohl goes on to say that a community that does not struggle with these issues is a community that does not offer welcome…and is closed in on itself.

So the struggles are good, and the complexities indicate that we are indeed, practicing radical hospitality and being stretched.

A Day in the Life

What do urban monks, House of Prayer people do anyways? People have a hard time wrapping their heads around our vocation (most Catholics get it right away), so from time to time I find it helpful to post what a day looks like for me.

6 am. I’m in The Nook, a prayer space I created in Kirks and my room. We live in an intentional community with a bunch of other adults, so private space and time is precious and hard to come by. Kirk sleeps later than I, so early mornings are the best time for me to be alone with Jesus. I read, journal and pray.

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8 am. Heartwatch is our weekly Benedictine prayer time at the Vine, our prayer space. Brother David Peter leads us in singing the psalms, interspersed with times of silence and intercession for the city. Two young ladies from Sister Care join us after an early morning working with prostituted women on Barton and we pray together for the sisters they have grown to know and love. My heart is heavy. Today I’m feeling the weight of the loss of a friends grandchild, and the loss of one of our youth at the Living Rock. Too many deaths in our community these days. We cry it out, and trust that the ground is being watered by our prayers and tears, and that life will spring up.

9:30. On reconnaissance, prayer walking and checking out potential new office space for GOHOP. For the last several years, Hughson St Baptist has graciously donated us space, but renovations are coming, so I’m on the prowl for new digs.

10:30. Planning our Internship for the fall, with Peter Giokas, our Internship Director. Dreaming up wild plans for the future, expansion of our training arm. Over the last couple of years, The Lord has brought quite a few academics on our staff of urban/prayer missionaries. We have five folks with M.Divs, and one Doctor of Theology! I find that perplexing and amusing, cause all I have is half a degree of nothing. Jesus, how do you want us to share our gifts to serve the city and the large prayer movement? We are starting to get an inkling of what He is up to but shhhh, it’s a secret!

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12:00. Over to the Living Rock, a ministry to street involved youth in Hamilton. We’ve been partnering with them for years. Tough day today. One of the kids died last week. “I hate this part of our job,” one Rock volunteer shared, “we loose too damn many of them!” The room is full of candles and grieving staff and youth. We sit, pray, listen. Such a privilege to be a gentle witness in these times of loss, to be the loving presence of a people of prayer in their midst. Lots of good connections and conversations with youth happen.

2:00. Still at the Rock. The kids are gone, and we pull out our guitars and spend an hour in worship and intercession for marginalized youth and next generation leaders in our city. Throughout the day I had been checking Facebook for updates on a pastor in our city who was in ICU at a local hospital, and we pray for him as well.

3:30. Yes we do house calls! A friend is struggling with chronic health issues, so our team goes over to her house, anoints her with oil, and prays for her. She explains that she’s been sick on and off since her family moved into this house, and her kids too. “Why don’t we come back and bless and pray through the house?” One of our team member suggest. “Maybe there are some historical and residual spiritual issues at play here that we can deal with.” We make a plan to come back next week to do the house blessing/house cleaning.

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4:15. I’m feeling like a wrung out dishcloth. Such an emotionally and spiritually intense day! Time for baby therapy. We are trying to share life together more as a community, and among other things, that looks like sharing child care. So while our friends Andy and Gwen spring clean their newly purchased Community House, Hannah and I toddle off to the park with their baby and toddler, and introduce them to the wonderful world of slides. “Again! Again!” I can feel the stress slide away and my spirit quietens.

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6:00. One thing I love about intentional community is that I only have to cook one night a week! We come home to a lovely dinner on the table (thanks Mary!) and some wonderful dinner guests. A lovely evening chatting about life and ministry. We take time after dinner, around the table, to thank God for the day and to pray for the needs we are aware of.

“We live very simply,” I explain to our guests. “But it’s a good life, and very very rich!”

Yes it is.