I Love to Tell the Story

By the Rev. David Andrews

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best

Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest;

And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song,

’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

I love to tell the story,

’twill be my theme in glory,

to tell the old, old story

of Jesus and his love.

When I was invited to write a reflection for the Communion about a SsAM ministry for the greater good, it was difficult for me to pick one way the Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew positively affects the greater good. So I thought I would instead tell the story of how this parish lives out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world today. To set the context, SsAM is located in the center of downtown Wilmington, a block from the Market Street business district and in the middle of the Creative District.

The story begins on any Sunday morning at 6:00a.m. when the church opens for our friends who live on the margins of society. Bill Perkins or Kim Eppehimer from Friendship House, greets each person by their first name as he or she arrives for Sunday breakfast. They are invited to come in from the freezing cold) or hot humid mornings, regardless of whether the moon and stars are still out, it is pouring rain, or the sun is shining brightly. They are invited to sit and have a cup of coffee, a pastry, or a hardboiled egg as an appetizer before the main course of a meat or meatless quiche. Before the meal, the names of those who have died in the last week or month are raised up before the blessing of the food. This has been happening for many years as Friendship House, in partnership with area churches, comes and uses the kitchen at SsAM for this example of radical hospitality. After breakfast, the folks are invited to attend either the 8:00 a.m. celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the church, or the 8:00 a.m. prayer service prepared and led by members of the parish, which takes place in the chapel — a time for reflection and giving praise to God. One of the lay leaders begins with a warm welcome to the chapel as a place where folks are not be judged but loved. Often, these folks come into the church at the end of the 8:00 a.m. liturgy and are welcomed at the altar to receive communion. On many cold Sundays, our friends will stay and attend the 10:30 a.m. service as well. For me, Sunday mornings are an example of Jesus’s words from the Gospel of Matthew:

I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matt. 25:36–41)

 

This radical hospitality that occurs on Sunday morning continues through the week as the parish is open to assist men and women with various needs such as applying for food vouchers on Monday and Wednesday mornings, receiving a cup of coffee during the winter or a cool cup of water in the summer, or having access to a public bathroom. From Christmas day of last year through the first ten days of 2018, the parish opened its doors for our homeless brothers and sisters to come in from the cold. Cold Purple, as this ministry is called, is also one in which we partner with Friendship House and other churches in the Wilmington vicinity. These ordinary acts are a reminder that we are called to serve Christ in the world.

The story continues with how we equip our parishioners to go out into the world to serve Christ and the greater good. A small group meets weekly to practice meditation, and this year a discipleship Bible study began so that participants can connect their life story with the stories of scripture. Also, the parish is open to various outside groups that wish to use our space because of its location. Such partnerships include Network Delaware, the Wilmington Children’s Chorus, Faith Victory Christian Center, and the annual semifinals for the Martin Luther King Jr. Communication Contest. This is just a small snapshot of what happens during the course of any week throughout the year.

The story I love to tell is of a parish that is not stagnant, but is a place where ministry flows in and outside of the parish boundaries … a story of a parish that is passionate about living out the Gospel of Jesus’ love for all people, no matter who they are or where they come from, and in the end brings life to the phrase, the common good. As the refrain of the song states:

I love to tell the story,

’twill be my theme in glory,

to tell the old, old story

of Jesus and his love.

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