Grace around the table…by Cleavy McKnight

November 5, 2010

By Cleavy McKnight, South Main Member

On the evening of December 23rd, 2009, South Main hosted a dinner in the church gym for some of our less-fortunate midtown neighbors. Church members prepared delicious barbecue, and many South Main members spent the afternoon and evening preparing plates of meats, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and dessert. The line of guests snaked its way out the door of the Activity Center and down the sidewalk to the street. We served over 100 visitors.

While the warm meal was doubtless appreciated, there was another aspect of the event that, I believe, was even more significant to our guests. Members of the South Main family sat at the tables with our guests during dinner. We listened to their stories and shared some of our own. We talked and laughed and shed a few tears. For that evening, we made our guests a part of our family.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the evening was the broad range of South Main members who participated, from children in elementary school all the way up to senior adults. Our visitors learned that South Main is a place of people who care. Our members were reminded of the grace we have received, and the joy of sharing that grace in the simplest of ways. We recalled Christ’s words that “whenever you have done these things for one of the least of these, you have done these things for me.”

As the meal ended, we gave our guests small backpacks, packed leftovers for them to take away and share, and gave them warm sleeping bags to combat the night chill. With gratitude, they shook our hands. With hugs, and a few more tears, we accompanied them back out onto the streets.

I thought about the many blessings I have received – blessings unearned, blessings given me through grace. I thought about what my children might have learned from joining in the evening’s meal and fellowship. I prayed that our visitors had felt, and would continue to feel, “our love, our care, our kinship, and our hopes.” I gave thanks for grace received, and for the joy of grace shared.

I look forward to new opportunities for this mission-minded church to give grace.

Give Grace.


Give Grace…by Hart Brupbacher

November 2, 2010

By Hart Brupbacher, South Main Member

On Sunday mornings I am a part of South Main extending God’s grace to the homeless community through the Manna Ministry. We provide a warm welcome, a friendly and caring ear to prayerfully listen, a little food and coffee, a bag of essentials (like soap, razors, sewing kits and other miscellaneous essential items), and a brief devotional that includes reading a Bible passage and providing a brief commentary on the passage. Every week we touch the lives of between 20 and 50 homeless people.

We give the gift of true caring and in return we often receive a gift grace. An example: a conversation that has become permanently engraved in my memory. One of the men told me that at one time he had a much better life than he has now. Things turned bad, and he found himself homeless and on the street. Then he shared this insight: “Everything that has happened to me is a result of my own choices. I know that I’ve done wrong, and I know what I need to do to change. I pray to God for the strength to make the change”. His honesty, insight and faith seemed to provide a lesson many of us need to hear: a wonderful perspective and a gift of grace to me.

Our pastor, Steve Wells, sometimes says that “the ground is level at the base of the cross”. My experiences in the Manna ministry are proving that to be true – as we share grace (each of us both giving and receiving grace).

Give Grace.

 


Manna…it’s good Church

March 5, 2010

By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

I went to a luncheon for SEARCH this week—that’s an organization here in midtown that was started by several congregations (South Main was one of them) many years ago to help the homeless in a variety of ways.  It’s a great organization and you can read more about them on their website.  At the luncheon we watched a video and one of the clients was sharing his story and he talked about being married and having a home and all the things you would think comprise a “normal” life and then his marriage fell apart and he got a divorce and he said, “After my divorce…I just sank into myself.”  It brought tears to my eyes to hear him articulate his depression so poetically and vividly.  He found at SEARCH a welcoming place and it changed his life.

Every Sunday morning, we gather in the North Parking lot, out by our tower on Main Street and we engage in a ministry we call “Manna.”  Basically, we meet with our homeless sisters and brothers to share a cup of coffee and our stories.  We talk about our prayer requests and we pray together.  We share a reading from Scripture and we sing “Amazing Grace.”  We also pass out “manna bags” that have things to eat now or later—crackers and peanut butter, granola bars and a bottle of water and sometimes a new pair of socks—when you’re homeless, new socks feel incredible!

Manna comes from the story in the Bible when the Israelites were wandering around in the dessert all grumpy about missing watermelon back in Egypt where they were slaves and God told them that God would take care of them and when they woke up in the mornings there would be this stuff on the ground that they called manna which basically means “what is it?” and they could gather up enough for the day and cook it and eat it.  God told them not to save any of it except on the day before the Sabboth, because they needed to learn to trust that God would provide.  So each day, they would wake up and there’s all this manna around to make flatbread for the journey.  God threw in some quail too, but that’s another story.  So they found what they needed in this serendipitous blessing of the morning.

That’s what we find at Manna on Sunday mornings.  We don’t call it that because we’re giving people enough stuff to get them through a day—although that is true.  We call it manna because we, both the people here at the church who participate and our homeless neighbors find enough in our fellowship to get us through another day.  It is truly beautiful and surprising and a wonderful way to start a Sunday—with the serendipitous blessing of meeting our neighbors and sharing life together…it’s good Church.

www.innerloopchurch.com