WELCOME FROM HAYWOOD STREET:
2. Next Free Pet Clinic: Sunday, January 16, 9am-12pm
A Haywood Street Farewell From: Brook
The first time I walked into the Haywood Street sanctuary, I dropped to my knees. Until that moment, I’d only ever experienced God’s presence outside of a church. Never within.
The first time I attended worship at Haywood Street, the sermon was interrupted by a man who burst through the sanctuary’s wooden doors and walked boldly and exhausted down the aisle, stopping before the alter. Rev. Combs went towards him and the people went towards him and there was prayer and rejoicing and tears that seemed both good and also re-repurposed. The man had been released from prison, less than an hour before this moment. He’d used his one-way taxi fare to get to Haywood Street. This was the norm, I just didn’t know it yet.
I ate my first meal at Haywood Street in 2017. I was too scared to go alone, so I brought my five-year-old daughter. We took a seat among people seemingly not like us. Platters of made-from-scratch mains and sides were placed on the table. A worn and shaking hand put a plate before me and filled my cup with water. I looked up to find that my waiter was someone I recognized; an unhoused man I’d often found drunk and asleep in the stairwell of my apartment building. Michelin meals are not served with this kind of soul-changing sauce.
Five years ago, I was hired as Haywood Street’s Lead Storyteller, a position that had not formerly existed. They took a chance on me. My knowledge of Christianity started and ended with the understanding that Jesus is the main character of the story, and I wasn’t even totally sure about that.
To every human who has let me less-than-gracefully film you, photograph you, or jot your story down on the back of a crumpled bulletin—Thank you. You are actually the main characters of what I call Christianity; you are what I believe in. You let me cut my teeth on the curation of your parables and the story of my life is forever changed by the trials and triumphs of yours.
Father Gregory Boyle says, “You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.” Haywood Street has humbled me. The lives of its people have given me a new lexicon for compassion. I have been paid royally in kinship.
The shitty thing about listening to God…if you’re really listening…is that sometimes you end up hearing exactly what you don’t want to hear. Things like, “Alright you scared little chickadee, it’s time to fly.”
Dearest Family in Christ, my last day serving as your Lead Storyteller will be January 31. Thank you for growing me up, for trusting me, and for showing me that the kingdom of God is as close as 297 Haywood Street.
All my love,