|Haywood Street Congregation.
The old church is made of solid red brick. There are paths worn in the struggling grass. I hate to leave the warm bright light to go inside because it is a beautiful day and I don’t want to be shut up within walls. But I have come to see what it’s all about—the Haywood Street Congregation. I am a day tripper, not on a mission, but on, I guess, my own kind of journey, but not anymore than anyone else. This is a place where hungry people can get fed. With no demands. Where all enter on equal footing. I see folks who are sleeping anywhere, everywhere. Safe and warm. I watch three volunteers, standing on hard concrete, give haircuts for hours. I can, if I desire, get free acupuncture. Or today a massage. Or free clothes. I eat lunch with my friend Terry and other members of the congregation—at a round table. The food is really good and plentiful. We pass the meatloaf, the succotash, the salad, and the quinoa. One guy at the table pours salad dressing all over the quinoa because it tastes better that way. Afterwards, there is a church service. All are welcome. The young minister Brian is dark-haired, dark-eyed handsome in his jeans and tee shirt. He talks about Simeon, an old man in the Bible who is one of the first to recognize Christ. I have never heard of Simeon. I am listening hard to this young man talk, watching as he looks at each of us in the pews. I’ve been to churches where the congregation are expected to say, Amen, in a chorus of yes, but this is the first time I have ever been in a church where those seated are asked to participate in the whole conversation. What do you think, Brian says. He is a master of including every answer in his response, his eyes intent and kind. I keep watching to see if he will suddenly show me that he knows he is a mesmerizing showman. But no. And then I get the secret to Haywood Street: there is no sham; there are no showmen. This guy is real. These folks are real. This love is real. I have come out of the day’s light into the pure, profound light of this holy place. I start crying around noon that day. I am crying as I type this. And I think it is from the wonder of it all. Pure goodness. Pure grace. Haywood Street Congregation.