Do This… In Remembrance of Me

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BY DAVID HOLSTON |

Note: David Holston is the Executive Director of Sunnyside Ministry, a ministry partner of the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

This past Sunday we celebrated communion in my congregation. It was in memory of the martyrdom of John Hus, the spiritual forefather of the Moravian Church. There, for a brief period, we all gathered at the table together. When we partook of the bread and the cup, the officiant says three times during the service: “Do this… in remembrance of me”.

Do this… in remembrance of me

This phrase resonated with me this past weekend as I thought about all I am through the grace of Jesus Christ. First, I remember that through the crucified Christ I am saved. This is a very important thing to remember. But as I thought more about this, I was led to the many lessons taught by Christ. I must say that I am often drawn to the passages about how we treat others. It is related to my daily life and my thinking.

Picture of communion

Take a few minutes and think about the last time you took communion. In the Moravian Church we practice an open communion; if you are a communing member of any church you are welcome at our table. What resonates with you when you take communion?

In the 1970’s there was a Coca-Cola commercial with all sorts of people gathered in lines singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony!” Imagine a world where we all held hands and sang songs and shared a Coca-Cola. Sadly, today it feels unlikely to happen. Someone would be offended by the person standing beside them; others would make fun of the one standing a few feet away. Some might even say, “this person is too sick to stand near me!” In reality, we know people are not always singing on mountain tops or in perfect harmony. Sadly, harmony does not exist in some cases between communing Christians. We can’t always agree to come to the same table. If we always did, there would be little to no hunger in this or any community.

Sunnyside Ministry

Sunnyside Ministry

In the last six days, we have had four people shot just a few blocks from two Moravian Churches and Sunnyside Ministry. At Sunnyside Ministry, the other day alone, we saw two females who have just escaped domestic violence. Additionally, Sunnyside has provided groceries for over a hundred families.

I believe that the change starts at this table, the one in most churches inscribed with the words: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

We ask “were does it end?” We say “someone needs to fix this!” We wonder “when are things going to get better?” I believe that the change starts at this table, the one in most churches inscribed with the words: “Do this in remembrance of me.” It starts with us, the Christian community when we reach out to everyone, both those who seem to have it all and those who we have called “the least, the lost, the last.”

Consider the original mission statement of the Salem Tavern:

“Whereas it is the duty of the Board of Directors of the Congregation to supervise, with a watchful eye, the tavern, and it is their ardent desire that the guests who come here (who are of very different dispositions and customs, yea, even occasionally enemies and spies) may be served by our Brothers and Sisters thus, by their correct conduct, without words, testify to Jesus’ death, and in their difficult office and calling, be an honor to the Lord and Congregation.”

Can we, create a table where all are welcomed, even our enemies? We can. Will it be easy? I think that it would be easier than we think, but only if we do this in remembrance of Christ.


Questions? Comments? Contact David Holston at David@SunnysideMinistry.org or call (336) 724-7558 ext. 103

David Holston

David Holston is the Executive Director of Sunnyside Ministry. Sunnyside Ministry is a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, and emergency financial assistance to families in crisis. All funding for our assistance programs comes from donations and grants. In 2014, Sunnyside Ministry provided $1,883,040 worth of services to families in crisis situations. Grocery orders were provided to 17,634 people and clothing to 15,483 individuals. To learn more about Sunnyside Ministry, subscribe to their email newsletter here.

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Ending Poverty In All Its Forms

Sunnyside Ministry BY DAVID HOLSTON |

“Our Lord Jesus entered into this world’s misery to bear it and to overcome it. We seek to follow Him in serving His brothers and sisters. Like the love of Jesus, this service knows no bounds. Therefore we pray the Lord ever anew to point out to us the way to reach our neighbors, opening our hearts and hands to them in their need.”
Ground of the Unity, #9

We live in a world of great opportunity, where you can enjoy a long and happy life. We also live in a world where the idea of a long and happy life to some is merely a dream.

I think a lot about the word “poverty.” Merriam-Webster provides this as a simple definition of poverty: “the state of being poor, a lack of something.” A lack of something. What is it that people are lacking? It should be easy to see and to bring an end to material poverty. People need something; we just give it to them and we have fixed the problem. It should be that simple. People are homeless; give them a home and the problem goes away. Right?

This world would be a different place if it were that easy to end poverty. After World War II, the World Bank worked on poverty alleviation in third world countries, but without much success. They asked over 60,000 people about poverty, and the results were published in a three-volume collection entitled “Voices of the Poor.” Here are some of the responses:

“Poverty is like living in jail, living under bondage, waiting to be free.” — Jamaica

“Poverty is lack of freedom, enslaved by crushing daily burden, by depression and fear of what the future will bring.” — Georgia

“If you want to do something and have no power to do it, it is talauchi (poverty).” — Nigeria

“A better life for me is to be healthy, peaceful and live in love without hunger. Love is more than anything. Money has no value in the absence of love.” — a poor older woman in Ethiopia

“When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior.” — a woman from Uganda

“For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.” — a blind woman from Tiraspol, Moldova(1)

reception

Sunnyside Ministry

Notice that none of these people described poverty as simply the lack of food, housing or money. They describe poverty as “the lack of something” bigger, in most cases — a sense of power over one’s own life. A sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency enables people to repair and improve their lives and that of their families. The phrase “a hand up, not a hand out” has been used by different non-profits for decades, so long that the original source seems to be lost. And while this rolls off the tongue, it is a difficult message to put into practice. But it is what we must do if we truly believe that part of our mission is to improve the lives of others.

A lack of something.

Do we see the poverty that is in our neighborhoods, offices, schools and yes, even our churches? You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in my office; our salaries enough for our employees to live on. You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in our neighborhood; it is full of nice homes. You may say to yourself there is no poverty in our church; we are a good church with nice families and everyone is well off.

I had a distant cousin that passed away in the 1990s. She was nearly 100 years old and still lived alone. She lived for decades as a widow after her husband was killed in a farming accident. She did not drive. Other cousins took her to church, to the grocery store. She was not wealthy, but had income from land leased to other farmers. She gardened and canned vegetables she grew. Now I realize that she suffered from social or isolation poverty. When I was about 10 years old, I mowed her small yard, which didn’t take long. She would sit and visit with me, asking about vacation or school, and this made her very happy. These conversations were a source of poverty alleviation for her, as they filled that “lack of something.”

“I like money and nice things, but it’s not money that makes me happy. It’s people,” says one woman in the World Bank survey. She’s not alone: research has found that social integration is more important for well-being than income, and also decreases poverty. Loneliness, conversely, can be deadly: one study found it did more damage to health than smoking.(2)

My cousin lived a long life. As I think of her, I remember a woman alone, in a house with a parlor never used. If more people had taken the time to visit her, how would her life have been different? If I stopped by and visited her more often, how would our lives have been different? Would those later years have been less of a struggle? What could I have learned from her? Is that not a part of what church is or should be — caring for others, seeking to find and fill the need that is lacking?

First we must examine our own poverties, whatever they are: hunger, poor health, addiction, loneliness, mental health or illness and so on. Then we look to move ourselves out of the poverty that grips us, by seeking the help of our own congregations, our fellow Jesus followers. We as the people of Christ, who are the Church of Christ, must welcome, uplift and empower each other out of our own poverties. And then as a church through the command of Christ in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sunnyside Ministry has a financial literacy program called Gaining Control. I recently asked one of the graduates what they got out of this program. She responded, “You all gave me back my self-esteem, and made me feel like I could really change my life. I wish that I could do that class all over again, it made me feel so good.” I like to think that our work helped her regain her innate sense of self-worth and equipped her with skills to take control of her life and move herself and her family out of poverty.

I believe that what will bring an end to poverty is simply this: empowering people to greater self-confidence and greater self-sufficiency, so that they are able to be independent of assistance. And through this improved sense of self, they are able to enter into rewarding relationship with their neighbors, enact change in their neighborhoods and beyond and live without the stress that accompanies any type of poverty.

Taking care of each other in our poverties is what Christ calls us to do. When we lift each other out of our individual poverties, we open our lives to the rewards offered in the Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Questions? Or want to learn more about Sunnyside Ministry or possibly volunteer? Contact David Holston at david(AT)sunnysideministry.org.

David Holston is the Director of Sunnyside Ministry under the Moravian Church of America, Southern Province 


(1) Listen to the Voices. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/0,,contentMDK:20612465~menuPK:336998~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:336992~isCURL:Y,00.html

(2) With a little help from my friends. (2015, June 6). Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21653680-poverty-about-who-you-know-much-what-you-earn-little-help-my

Images via Sunnyside Ministry.

 

Leadership Focus 2015

LF

Register now for Be the Church: Living Faith in a New Generation on Saturday, February 28, from 9:00am-3:30pm at Trinity Moravian Church, Winston-Salem. From fall 2014 through fall 2015 the Comenius Learning Series is focusing on ways to be the church in a new generation, using the 600th celebration of the legacy of John Hus as inspiration. Leadership Focus 2015 will include morning workshops followed by a mission blitz that will provide persons of all ages to partner with community organizations on a special afternoon project. Come as a youth group, small group or someone excited about mission!

God gives us life, our gifts and talents, the earth and all that is in it. In response to God’s grace, we live our lives in faith, love, and hope. During the mission blitz portion of the day, we have a chance to go out into our community and use God’s gifts to share the good news. These projects represent just a few ways we can live out Jesus’ mandate to love our neighbor.

Mission Blitz Projects Include: 

  • Bless Inmates, Families & Volunteers (Friends of Moravian Prison Ministry)
  • Serve Our Neighbor in Need at Sunnyside
  • Spruce Up the Shepherd’s Center
  • Practice Laundry Love with Anthony’s Plot
  • Share the Good News: Multi-Media Mission
  • Sew the Solution: Warmth for the World
  • Help Congregations SHIFT into More Effective Ministry
  • From Heart to Hand: Moravian Families Serving Together to Make a Difference (for families and children’s groups)

Register using this mail-in Leadership Focus 2015 Registration Form or use our online registration. You’ll find detailed descriptions for the morning workshop options and afternoon mission blitz in our printed registration.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Knowing Our Neighbors

yada

I didn’t take Hebrew when I was in seminary. I figured reading right to left was going to make learning a new language doubly difficult, so I opted for Greek. I still managed to pick up on some nuances of the Hebrew language which transform how we understand who we are as people of faith. For example, the intimacy of the relationship God shares with the people, and vice-versa, was wrapped up in a word we translate as “to know.” God“knows” us and we are to “know” God, in the way two people in loving covenantal life “know” each other.

I have been thinking about that deep Hebrew word recently while reflecting on the dual practices Jesus tells his followers to commit to: love God and love your neighbor. I am positive that the direction my life is supposed to take in loving God looks more like that Hebrew word for “to know” than the sentimentality that can define how I “love.” Of course, that’s not a radically new insight for us.

But I am further challenged when I look at the second part of Jesus’ demand of his followers: love your neighbor. What if sentimentality toward my neighbor isn’t enough? More specifically, what if kind-hearted acts of service isn’t the point? What if Jesus is asking of his followers that we get to “know” our neighbors as though we were in a covenantal relationship together? That may change much about how we operate as followers of Christ, and how those we are called to minister to experience us – not as do-gooder’s or volunteers (or worse, as disinterested religious folk), but as people who will stand with the hurting and ignored until we “know” them.

urlNow, before I bring this point home, let me be transparent: I am writing this short article with an agenda. Through March 31, There is an opportunity for Winston-Salem Moravians to spend time with the homeless community at an emergency shelter in First Baptist Church. I invite you to get to know these vulnerable persons in our city. While we “love” our homeless neighbors, we may not “know” them. You would be amazed at the journey and experiences of our homeless neighbors in our city, and you would be amazed at how realistic it is to journey together with and commit to one another.

But I am getting ahead of myself. A little. I invite you, your small group, or some part of your congregation to come help at the shelter one evening. Come to help, and come to begin a journey alongside your neighbor who is homeless, that we might “know” each other better.

Russ May is a founder of Anthony’s Plot, a Moravian intentional Christian community in Winston-Salem, NC. The cold weather shelter was started through Anthony’s Plot Community in January with assistance from First Baptist W-S, Centenary UMC, and WS First Assembly. During March, we are inviting 2-3 persons per night to help at First Baptist from 7:30-9:30pm. Email Russ May at info@anthonysplot.org to sign up, or for more information about how you and your church can grow in relationship and ministry to Winston-Salem’s homeless population.