|One year ago, I walked through the doors of the Haywood Street sanctuary terrified that someone would ask me a question I could not answer. I didn’t know the liturgy, I didn’t know the hymns, and I was truly worried that someone would notice that I didn’t belong. That first service was a blur, but I remember the important parts. Someone stood at the front and explained that God’s Table was for everyone, and all were invited to come forward. I got in line and figured I’d just do what the person in front of me did. Of all people, Pastor Brian ended up in front of me. He welcomed me as we waited in line, and I blurted out that I’d never been to church before. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m honored you would choose Haywood Street.” Cue my audible sigh of relief.
The story of how I got to Haywood Street is long and complicated, and when I tell it, I am not actually sure where to begin. Several months before I walked through the sanctuary doors, I was at an event where another local pastor was introducing himself. He said he’d been working in sales and then, “One day, God called.” At the time, the idea of God literally calling someone to ministry sounded like hyperbole. Now, I laugh at myself when I think of that day. I may not be sure of where to begin with my story, but the simplest and most honest answer to the question of how I ended up at Haywood Street is, “I was called.”
From the beginning, these words from the Haywood Street website spoke to me: “This is a not a ministry where ‘the haves’ help ‘the have nots.’ We are a ministry that acknowledges each of us as privileged and each of us as being in need. While some come with hunger from the body others come with a hunger in their souls.” When I stumbled through the doors of Haywood Street, I wasn’t sure what I needed, and I didn’t know what I had to offer anyone in need. A year later, I still struggle to put words to that need, but something always brings me back to communion. In her book Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion, Sara Miles says, “What happened once I started distributing communion was the truly disturbing, dreadful realization about Christianity: You can’t be a Christian by yourself.”
The day I knew I truly belonged at Haywood Street was the day I was finally brave enough to volunteer to serve communion to others. I’ve realized that I will never have the eloquence to adequately explain how the simple invitation to God’s Table changed me. What I do possess is the ability to participate in the act of inviting others to that experience. When I think about being called, I know that we at Haywood Street have all been called to a community to accompany one another. None of us are Christians by ourselves.
In a sermon a few weeks ago, Pastor Brian said that the most important day on the Christian calendar is today. Every day God calls, and we have to decide to answer the phone and accept that invitation. As I looked around the Welcome Table and the sanctuary last night, I smiled and silently thanked God for inviting me to such an amazing party.
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