More and more PBS stations are signing on to show the documentary “Theirs is the Kingdom” which shares the story (and stories within the story) of the Haywood Street Fresco. It will air on Easter in many areas. Please check your local PBS station for showings. (click here for official press release)
Next Wednesday, there will be a memorial service held for our friend Patrick Osbourne in the Haywood Street sanctuary at 12:30pm. All are welcome to come and celebrate his life.
– With Spring weather near, companions can help in the garden and with the little library — books needed. Respite is also welcoming companions, and of course, the kitchen could always use extra hands!
– The art room is in need of companions as well! Click here to learn more about the I Am Home art project.
A Reflection from Carra Elyse Hurley:
A Transformative Introduction to Haywood Street Congregation
Since I was a little girl, church has been a big part of my life. My dad was ordained as a minister when I was barely out of diapers. He and my mother made sure that we were a part of every program and activity. Whether it was choir practice, dance rehearsal, Bible study or midweek service, we were at our church almost every day of the week. Throughout these years, we went to other churches to experience other ways of worship. I thought I had gotten to see it all. The progressive and the traditional, the rigid and the unrestrained, congregations large and small, denominations and theologies that I thought ran the gamut. I had a picture of all a church is and could be.
When I walked into Haywood Street Congregation for the first time, what I saw did not match that picture. The lobby was bustling. There were folks sitting on the floor charging their devices at nearby outlets, groups talking and laughing, and people sleeping in any chair, corner, or floor space available. I recognized immediately that Haywood differed from what I had experienced in the past. I had read about Haywood Street Congregation’s focus on diversity and judgment-free connection with others. Thankfully, I could see from the beginning that it was authentic. The people in the lobby were different sizes, ages, and races. They wore different clothes, had differing abilities, and all expressed themselves differently, but I never saw outward judgment toward anyone. I could tell that Haywood is an institution that says, “come as you are” and truly takes that call seriously.
On my second visit to campus, it seemed as if I was the one interviewing others. When I asked the friends to tell me what I should know, they told me that the experience is different daily; that Haywood is something I’d have to experience for myself. I was told to just “go with the flow.” It is only now, as I sit to reflect on my experience, that I see how each of the responses I received come together to help me understand Haywood Street Congregation on a deeper level.
As I toured the campus, I saw where Haywood’s future hair salon and deck for outdoor eating would be. I saw previous campus projects, including the chess boards and a special table for gun disassembly. To me, these aspects of the campus suggest that Haywood Street Congregation is constantly progressing. When the church better serves the community, fellowship and relationship building is even more possible.
As I wandered around campus meeting new people that morning, some shared with me a few glimpses into their lives. One woman spoke to me about her up and down battle with medical issues and affording necessary care. A man told me his story of coming to Asheville years ago in a relationship and with a plan, only for the unexpected to arrive leaving him, until recently, without a home to call his own. He has been coming to Haywood Street Congregation for years and has seen change and development in the church just as he has in his own personal life. All of Haywood’s members and friends must go with the flow of their ever-changing lives. I find it likely that the consistent presence of Haywood Street Congregation as a resource and support system would be helpful in navigating a life where things can transform in a matter of moments.
That Sunday I toured Haywood Street Congregation is when I truly began relearning all that a church could be. I have been so used to the pulpit being a closed off area and those being heard in a sermon being limited, that I was intrigued when hearing about the collaborative, conversational way worship services are held at Haywood Street Congregation. This method of worship service perpetuates the idea that God is everywhere and within everyone, not limited to one specific area or any one special person. At Haywood, God’s message doesn’t come from one being who must interpret for everyone else, but is spread through anyone who is willing to share their gifts and ideas.
As I think back over that day, I see how my ideas and perspective were transformed once I really experienced Haywood Street for myself. The fresco in the sanctuary went from a beautifully symbolic image to a depiction of real people with their own stories. The Welcome Table became more than just food service, but a place of dignity and free choice where the authenticity of those values is clear. The phrase “relationship above all else” became more than a motto as I saw moments of genuine connection wherever I turned. A pastor and friend chatting in the garden, a table of women huddled close over a phone in the dining room, a warm greeting in the hall between two friends. Each time we passed this type of interaction during the tour, someone would tell me: “That is what Haywood Street is.” It’s genuine love, conversations, relationships. It’s viewing everyone through a lens of God’s love.
No matter if the God’s Outfitters lies empty or is overflowing, the kitchen is calm or chaotic, the deck and hair salon are complete or remain in progress, the key aspects of what Haywood Street Congregation is will not change. There will be biblical services without condemnation or judgment. There will be a meal at the Welcome Table made with a little chaos and a lot of love. There will be respite available for friends who need it. Everyone who enters Haywood is loved and welcomed. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.