A friend recently asked if I would like to go to Haywood Street Congregation for Wednesday lunch and worship. She said anyone is welcome and that through their service of free meals and voluntary worship (both open to anyone) they are building community across all sorts of racial, social and class lines.
I’d heard about Haywood Street for years, but I’d never gone. Immediately, I felt welcome, connected and inspired.
When I arrived, I walked through a lush vegetable garden on the way to the dining room entrance. The energy was warm and alive. While people were waiting on lunch, they got haircuts from volunteer stylists, registered for food stamps and sifted through the well-organized used clothes racks to take what they needed.
As lunch began we were all served an excellent meal around a circular table for 6-7, and everyone was treated like first-class patrons. To my astonishment, we were told that they would serve 500 people that day (over 4-5 seatings)!
During worship the minister welcomed everyone by openly inviting and encouraging individual responses to his questions related to his message. During the service, different individuals got up and sang a song or shared a joy or concern, and all were acknowledged and honored.
I felt connected to many things, both external and internal, while I was there. I felt more connected to my friend who opened this part of her life to me that day. I felt connected to the other people there who I already knew from my community at Jubilee! I felt connected to my years serving at the Interfaith Council shelter kitchen in Chapel Hill, to my social work days, and to my connection with the Asheville homeless community through my former marriage with the former H.H. Executive Director (the reason we moved to Asheville in 1997). I also felt connected to my home church, South Hills Christian Church, in Fort Worth TX that regularly preached, taught and pursued the powerful and blessed work for justice and reconciliation that Jesus urged his followers to take up, and that launched me into my life’s work.
And I felt inspired. I felt the joy and authenticity that permeated the dining room and the worship service. I felt gratitude my own gratitude and I felt it from others, not just those of us who most needed the food to be free that day. I felt part of something honorable. It reminded me that we all need the culinary and the metaphysical table, we need to be a part of supporting others, especially those who are too often forgotten. It reminded me that we are all children of something greater than we can know. And it reminded me that it can be joyful to participate, ever more deeply, to give and to receive, and that all of life is enriched in the process.
As we walked away, I said to my friend, “Wow, what it can look like when people come together and just be human.”