All Angels Church Welcomes The Rev. Dr. Jonathan A. Linebaugh as “Visiting Priest and Scholar”

Meet our newest member of the Clergy team.

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Click here for a video greeting from the Linebaugh family.
Click here to LISTEN to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Linebaugh’s Institution sermon.
Click here to WATCH the sermon. (link expires July 17th)

Dear Friends,

Over the past several months, your leadership has been working hard on a transition plan for this Fall, when our beloved Christine Lee moves into her new role as “Priest-in-Charge” of St. Peter’s. As someone who has overseen several priest searches in previous parishes, I was immediately impressed by the caliber of candidates who presented themselves for this position. To be blunt, it’s not always easy to find a high caliber assistant priest, and I’ve regularly experienced dead ends in searches. The reality is, the best candidates generally want to serve as head Rectors–not as somebody else’s assistant. So, the talent pool in these searches is often pretty thin.

That was not the case for us. From the very beginning, it was clear that we would have our pick from any number of highly qualified applicants. The trick, as we began to vet candidates, was to determine exactly what we were looking for as we made this hire. The big question was this: Did we want to call somebody immediately who could step fully into the role that Christine has had? Somebody who could, like she did, serve as a partner to the Rector for the foreseeable future (in Christine’s case, for almost a decade)? Or, did we want to come up with a short-term solution, somebody who could be with us for a discrete period of time, allowing us some flexibility on the road ahead?

As we began discussing this question, an amazing thing happened. God answered the question for us. Vestryperson Funmi Akintayo-Mullis put it well when she said ‘These decisions come to their best resolution when we look, not for the one who we want, but the one who God is sending.’ That’s exactly what happened here.

I’ll try and tell you the story as best and as quickly as I can. About a month ago, a portion of your parish leadership held a meeting at the Rectory, during which we discussed a particularly interesting candidate. However, after a lengthy discussion about this candidate, some significant concerns had been raised, not only about this candidate in particular, but about the idea of immediately hiring a full-time priest in general. At the time, I was also hosting Bishop Ric Thorpe–the church planting expert whose work has brought radical revitalization to churches throughout London, and who had come to New York at Christine Lee’s invitation to help pioneer church renewal in our Diocese. After the meeting was over, I began to process the various aspects of the decision with Bishop Ric.

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Suddenly, Bishop Ric interrupted me and asked this puzzling question: “Who is your best friend?” “Excuse me?” I asked in response. Then he said: “I just think whoever your best friend is, you should reach out to him, and do whatever it takes to get him here.” Then, he excused himself to go to bed.

If the interruption was puzzling at first, it became even more so as I began to ponder it further. Many of you have already met my best friend, The Rev. Dr. Jonathan (“Jono”) A. Linebaugh, as he was the preacher at my Institution. The thing is, while he’s an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, his primary vocation is to the theological academy. So, I thought: “That couldn’t be it.” True story, I spent the rest of my night going through my rolodex, searching the archives of my various networks, trying to think of a more “realistic” candidate whom Bishop Ric’s enigmatic words could be suggesting.

The next morning, out the blue, I got a text from Jono. In short, Jono’s text said this: ‘My plans for my sabbatical this coming year are still unclear, and I’m not really sure what I should do. What do you think?’ Talk about “the one who God is sending,” right? As a friend, my first response was to help him weigh his various options. But in the end, I finally hit him with it: “Jono, you should come work with me.” And, thanks be to God, all were in agreement.

As a bit more background, Jono is a Lecturer in New Testament and Theology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Jesus College. He and his wife Megan have three children: Liam, Callie, and Anna. His main academic focus is the interpretation of Paul’s letters in the New Testament and he has written and edited a number of books and articles on Paul’s theology and the way the apostle’s letters have been read by later interpreters. For Jono, this research is also wed to his pastoral calling. Ordained in The Episcopal Church since 2008, Jono hopes in his research and teaching as well as his preaching and pastoral care to be a minister of the word: to hear and receive the gospel so that it can be spoken to and shared with the world.

Calling Jono as our “Visiting Priest and Scholar” means that we have gone with our second option: a short-term hire, who will be with us for a predetermined amount of time–specifically, this Fall and Spring. As it became clear that God was calling Jono specifically, we also began to see how this was the best thing for our parish on the whole. This is true for several reasons. Above all, it allows us the time to both be more intentional in determining exactly what we want from a second priest–whether we will want to hire another “Vicar” like Christine, or whether we should use that position for some other good purpose–as well as the time to be patient and thorough in our search. Please pray for us as we continue to seek God’s will about this future.

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For now, I could not be more excited that Jono will be serving our parish this coming year. You’ll see him and his family for the first time at the Annual Parish Retreat in September, and then regularly beginning in October after Christine’s departure.

Please join me in giving thanks to God, and in welcoming Jono when he comes!

In Christ,

Nathaniel Jung-Chul Lee+

“Don’t Walk By”: A Reflection

Don’t Walk By is an annual winter outreach to our neighbors surviving on the street. The outreach encourages New Yorkers to put into practice the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Over the past decade, Don’t Walk By volunteers have canvassed the streets of Manhattan, met over 10,000 individuals and invited them back to a host site. There, guests of the NYC Rescue Alliance were offered a hot meal, clothing, basic medical care, and connection to ongoing support.

This year, All Angels’ Community Ministries lead the overnight hospitality task force in collaboration with the NYC Rescue Mission. On February 2nd and 9th, All Angels’ opened its doors for shelter for over 30 men and women brought to us through Don’t Walk By. A handful of those guests still come to us for Sunday shelter, church services, and/or our Pathways drop-in program.

 

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“Ever walk by a homeless person and wonder to yourself, ‘what can I do to help?’ Well, at All Angels’ we’re constantly thinking of ways to alleviate the effects of homelessness, and in February we participated as host to shelter as many in need as we could as part of the Don’t Walk By initiative. I was one of the hosts for those evenings, and I’m richer for it.

As someone who is still dealing with the trauma of being homeless, I often wondered what the purpose of my life is or will be, and that evening I felt that I just might be finding the answer to this question.

As we set up our shelter, I wanted to create a welcoming, warm, relaxing environment for our guests. That included lighting, aroma therapy, food and drink, a warm bed and shower, and even a movie. We were also able to offer clothes and such from our donation bins. While that was half the mission, the most important component to me is the human one. Greeting my guests, having small talk with them, and sharing our experiences was the most gratifying aspect and I have found a real knack for this. I strongly believe in greeting someone with a smile, handshake, and looking into their eyes–barriers crumble. Our guests deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.

The next morning there was a light breakfast and conversation. I was blown away by my guests. They were gracious and wanted me to know how much they loved their stay actually stating it was the best shelter they ever stayed in and asking when they could return. Seeing them so happy and rested–maybe even walking a little taller–filled my heart. I think this is where God wants me, so, ironically, I came in wanting to give to those in need and instead received more from them then I could ever give.

To my guest for those two nights, thank you for giving me direction, value, and purpose. To the NYC Rescue Alliance, my fellow angels at All Angels’, our clergy, management, volunteers, and support staff… keep doing God’s work. Amazing!

To all who read this, a challenge of sorts: starting ASAP, smile and see God’s love flourish. Praise God and God’s Kingdom awaits.”

–Joey Sepulveda
CM participant and part-time All Angels’ Support Staff team member

Keeping The Sabbath Holy & Wholly

Instead of giving something up for Lent this year, why not embrace the gift of Sabbath?

by Christine Lee and Joanna Thomas

Frank Sinatra famously called New York the “city that never sleeps”.  There’s great blessing in this– we have the privilege of living in one of the most vibrant, diverse, dynamic cities in the world.  But there’s also a dark side too: we are often driven to exhaustion, overwhelmed by seemingly endless demands, fearful of falling behind or missing out. This year, for Lent, we need Sabbath.

What is the Sabbath?

The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word shavat which means to “cease, stop, pause, rest.” But the Sabbath is not simply a day off to run errands or veg out. It is not another name for Sunday. As it has been practiced historically, the Sabbath is a 24-hour period in the week where we stop our work, we rest, we delight and we contemplate the love of God.

Why Sabbath this Lent?

The Sabbath reminds us of who God is.   The Sabbath points back to the perfect shalom of God’s original work of creation and the reality that God himself rested from his work. Marva Dawn in her book Keeping The Sabbath Wholly writes, “God rests at creation not because he is tired but because rest is a sign of completion and abundance. The universe is so well-ordered, his creation is so good, God’s gifts to humanity are so generous that God is able to rest.” As we Sabbath, we remember that God, and not us, makes and sustains the world.  God continues each day to give gifts that delight, fulfill, refresh and restore His creation. And God Himself rests.

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The Sabbath reminds us of whose we are. In the Sabbath, we exercise the freedom God has given us to worship, to trust and to rest in Him.  Rest is something that free people can do— slaves cannot rest. As we commit to Sabbath, we test the drivenness that fuels our activity. Who are really trusting in? Are we truly free, or are we in bondage to another agenda?  As Dorothy Bass puts it, “To keep the Sabbath is to exercise freedom and recall the One from whom that freedom came, the One from whom it still comes.”

Sabbath reminds us of where we are going.  Sabbath points forward to the time when God’s work of re-creation — the new heavens and the new earth — will be complete in Christ. No matter what our current struggles or difficult circumstances, we know how the story ends.  God wins! Jesus reigns! All wrongs will be made right, all tears wiped away. Perfect shalom will be restored. As we practice Sabbath, we enact our hope and trust in God’s ultimate victory.

Scripture draws a straight line between justice and Sabbath. Israel’s Sabbath was for masters and servants, foreigners and even the animals that work. No political or economic category mattered — God’s rest was available to all.  As we rest on the Sabbath, we seek to reclaim that image of God’s shalom for all, and look for ways to rest so that others may rest.

In these times of unrest in our world, God is calling his people to walk to the beat of a different drum. Practicing Sabbath allows us to become a people who draw from the deep, still waters of rest and trust in the Creator God, the Redeemer God.

Scriptures to Consider

  • Genesis 1:1-2:3
  • Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15
  • Isaiah 56:1-8
  • Isaiah 58:1-14
  • Matthew 12:1-8
  • Hebrews 4:1-11

Books to Read

*****

Carolyn Carney and Joanna Thomas have put together this helpful guide on suggested Sabbath practices to get you started. 

In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzero helps us think about keeping Sabbath by stopping, resting, delighting and contemplating. Below you’ll find some suggested practices for each of these four categories, followed by some special considerations for singles and for families. Be creative and consider your own situation, personality, and your needs for this season of life. However, do consider engaging each category.

For All:

Stopping

  • Stop worrying and instead cast your cares to the Lord. List or write on separate slips of paper the items or people or situations that weigh heavily on you.  One by one, with intention, turn over each of these to Jesus.
  • Do not send or read emails related to work. Refrain from school work or studying.
  • Go screen-less for 24 hours.
  • Be free to not shop.  This can stir a sense of gratitude for what you already have and gives you freedom from wanting or even coveting what you may not need. Plus, it also gives others a chance to Sabbath.

Resting

  • Take a nap.
  • If you tend toward being competitive, try a more leisurely pace. Drive more slowly.
  • Read for pleasure, especially something that encourages, lightens your spirit or inspires you.
  • Rest from media: news, advertisements, etc.
  • Free yourself from multi-tasking and allow the pleasure of giving your attention to one thing or one person.

Delighting

  • Enjoy a leisurely, agenda-less conversation with a friend or loved one.
  • Enjoy special foods, plates and dishes, or décor, but refrain from invoking the spirit of Martha Stewart.  Try eating more slowly to savor food.
  • Explore a new hobby.  Make art. Learn a new dance move.
  • Take a walk or hike in nature, fly a kite, play on the beach, kayak.  

Contemplating

  • Mark the beginning and ending of Sabbath by lighting a candle and saying a prayer and/or having a reading.  Suggested reading: Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems, selections from any book on Sabbath, or a psalm.
  • Take extra time to leisurely be with God in prayer.  Consider setting aside a chunk of time to listen to God, bringing a specific question to him.
  • At the end of the Sabbath period name the gifts that came to you in the time.

For Singles

  • In advance make a plan for how you will spend Sabbath. Consider what will be healthy and life-giving. Be aware if you need time alone with God or with others.
    • Join with other singles to intentionally celebrate Sabbath together. Interact with each other rather than screens: talking, storytelling, walking, bike riding, playing games. Intentionally direct meal conversations toward God.  What did God reveal to you this week about himself?  Where did you spot God this week?
  • If being with a family is important to you consider asking to join a family for their Sabbath meal.
  • Be intentional about marking the beginning and ending of Sabbath.

For Families

When we keep Sabbath, we do not take a break from loving those under our care. Remember, Jesus did GOOD on the Sabbath. Think about how you will model rest, delight and dependence on God for your children.

Stopping

  • Keep food simple.
  • Plan quality time that involves interacting with each other rather than screens: talking, storytelling, puzzling, playing board games.

Resting

  • When kids are a little older, practice a “slow” morning: everyone gets their own breakfast, read or Quiet Time or journal at leisurely pace. Choose a time to come together.

Delighting

  • Invite friends over to share a meal with you.  (The Gabourys have Pizza Night on Fridays that involves the whole family in preparation and an open invitation to friends to come join.)
  • Where it’s feasible and life-giving, be aware of singles in your community who might enjoy time with your family and vice versa.
  • A possible beginning or ending of Sabbath: Bless each other. Have a family member hold another family member’s face in their hands, look them in the eyes and say a brief blessing over them. Continue around so that each member both gives and receives a blessing.

Contemplating

  • Intentionally direct meal conversations toward God.  What did God reveal to you this week about himself?  Where did you spot God this week?
  • When children are young, take an extra few minutes when you lay them down for a nap, and as you watch them fall asleep bring to mind the gifts God has given you

Won’t you Sabbath with us this Lent? 

 

An Invitation To A Holy Lent (And Holy Rest)

Hi. My name is Christine and I’m a workaholic.

I have never attended a Workaholics Anonymous meeting but a quick Google search led me to their website which tells me that it’s “for people identifying themselves as powerless over compulsive work, worry, or activity including, but not limited to, workaholics–including overworkers and those who suffer from unmanageable procrastination or work aversion.”

Yup. That’s me alright.

Jimmy tells me that I have “noggin issues.” What he means is that my brain is always on overdrive. I don’t sleep well. I consistently wake up at 2 am, start thinking, can’t fall back asleep, will be up for 3-4 hours, fall back asleep for another hour and then get up to start the day.

There are a lot of reasons that might be causing my sleeplessness. I tried convincing my ob/gyn that I wasn’t sleeping well because I was pre-menopausal. She asked me, “Are you turning off your screens an hour before you sleep?” No. “Are you exercising regularly?” No. “Are you limiting your caffeine intake in the afternoons?” No. “You should probably try these things first before you start diagnosing yourself off of WebMD.”

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Why am I not turning off my screens before I sleep? Because there is always one more email to write. Why am I not exercising regularly? Because I pack my week so full of 10-12 hour days, my introverted self is exhausted and the last thing I want to do is exercise. Why am I not limiting my caffeine intake? Because I’m not sleeping or exercising and it’s the only thing giving my body a boost of energy.

If I dig deeper, it comes down to this reality that’s hard to admit: in my heart of hearts, I want to be God. I act like I am God. I think that if I stop working, everything will fall apart. If I stop working, people will think I’m not competent and on top of things. If I stop working, maybe I will have to confront that I can’t justify my worth and existence by the things that I accomplish.

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One of the things I love most about living the Christian year is that whether I’m aware of it or not, or feel ready for it or not, here it is. Winter gives way to spring every single year. The light of Christ’s revelation to the world that we celebrate and give witness to in Epiphany also “shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). What Lent does is give us the gift of being able to ask, where have I allowed the darkness of living life without God to seep in? Where have I elevated the gifts over and above the Giver? What habits have I become bound to that lead to death rather than the life and freedom that are found in Christ?

In other words, what do I need to die to in Lent so that I can live the new life of Easter more fully?

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There are 40 days of Lent. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days being tempted by the devil. Bobby Gross writes, “Humbled by hunger, the Israelites in the wilderness and Jesus in the desert understood experientially their daily dependence on God for physical sustenance; more profoundly, they relied on God for the life that lies beyond biology, life for our souls, ourselves… Hearing God’s Word and doing God’s will becomes food for us, Jesus teaches. Even more, he feeds us with himself: his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink.”

A few things to ponder in these days leading up to Lent:

  • Where have I gotten away from the Lord and how can I return to him with all my heart?
  • Is there something I can fast from that when I hunger for it, I can be reminded of my hunger for Christ?
  • Is there a practice I can take up that might help me reorient myself toward God and his kingdom?

At the risk of being like one of those people Jesus talks about in Matthew 6 who shows off their fasting, I’ll share my Lenten practices for this year. I’m going to fast from technology after 9 pm and before 8 am. And I’m committing (re-committing) to 24-hour Sabbath every week to stop work, rest, delight and contemplate God’s love and goodness and to be reminded that God is God and I am not.

There have been many of you who have expressed a desire to “keep the Sabbath holy.” The Sabbath was never intended to be individual but a communal practice for the people of God. The women of All Angels’ will be delving into this at our retreat at the end of March. This Sunday, March 3 as well as March 10, we’ll have a table downstairs with resources available for Sabbath and Lent.

Whether you decide to keep the Sabbath as your Lenten practice or not, I pray that this Lent, you will experience the Lord’s promise from Isaiah 30:15, “In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

**Here is the link to a sermon I preached in 2017 entitled “Sabbath In A Time Of Unrest” for an introduction to the Sabbath.

On Stewardship

 

 

I’ve taught on the subject of stewardship a few times in Sunday School and I’ll address the same 3 main questions here as I do there, just more personally and with slightly more grown-up language:

  1. Are we talking about boats today?
  2. Why do we give?
  3. What does God do with what we give?

Not quite Noah’s Ark

“No, we’re not talking about boats today…”

“Aw, man.” 

“…but we’re going to talk about a chance you have to act like a sea captain.”

Put on your captain’s hat because you’re in charge of the S.S. Piggy Bank! We each have a ship filled with our assets that we steer into different ports, making drop-offs as we see fit. God has entrusted us with the resources we’ve been given and it’s up to us to judiciously divert it to places where it can continue to further God’s kingdom.

Now this metaphor clearly sprung from my work with the kids, but I’ve actually come to really like it because it importantly emphasizes that we are a conduit for our resources and not the final destination. God’s blessings are as much a responsibility as they are a gift, and our call is to be prayerful and discerning in how we spend them. Viewing our assets as things to be distributed not only supports that practice, but also cultivates a spirit of generosity and guards our hearts against becoming reliant on earthly things. That doesn’t mean I don’t save for the future, but it does mean that I consistently try to orient my heart towards identifying where I can provide relief and expansion for others.

 

God Loves a Cheerful Giver

But why do we give in the first place? For me, giving starts from a place of recognizing what I have. One of my most important spiritual practices has been nurturing a consistent deliberate appreciation for the blessings big and small in my life. Particularly for a natural-born worrier like myself, it’s been a vital way that I recognize God’s sovereignty and acknowledge that my trust is ultimately in His plan and provision. That practice expands my capacity to share from a place of freedom and giving can then become a form of worship and praise. From there, I can commit that with those blessings I will try to bless others.

Because ultimately, what is our call on this earth, but to bring about God’s kingdom? We are a part of a community of Christians that has spanned generations and millennia, all of whom have been tasked with reflecting the face of God to others so that they may more deeply know Him. I’ve been deeply enriched by others doing that exact thing and my aim is to pay it forward. Giving is one of the ways we put our faith into action and depending on where we are sending our money, we are supporting the continuing growth and flourishing of God’s kingdom and the larger story at work on this earth.

I’ll be the first to admit that every time I crack open my checkbook or look at the annual pledge card, there’s still an instinctual Gollum-like grip on my heart saying “Are you sure about that?” But my giving-related regrets have never been that I gave too much. And I’m teaching myself to use those moments of hesitation as a reminder to pray blessings on what that giving will become…

 

Five Loaves and Two Fishies

…because what does God do with what we give? He takes our 2 copper coins and transforms it vastly beyond its apparent means. He takes everyday things and makes them holy, multiplying what we put forth.

The donations to the kitchen capital campaign will become thousands of meals and those meals in turn will be thousands of opportunities for our brothers and sisters to experience a God that loves them. A retreat scholarship becomes a chance for the hard work of community integration to take place and the feeding of our relational souls. A meal to new parents creates just a little more capacity for presence to the family.

And $10’s worth of popsicle sticks and paper cups can become:

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At first, you might squint and perhaps see a couple of dioramas of our church building, but in the 20 minutes it took to design and assemble them, I saw our kids challenged to see Jesus in each other and to love one another even when it’s hard. I heard them delve into understanding what makes a church a church (hint: it’s not the cross on the front door!). And I know another link was added to the bonds of community that will support their faith walk for years to come.

None of these things necessarily start out as something flashy; more often than not they’re rather mundane things. But our imaginations and limited understanding can put a harness on what we think is possible. Giving is a route through which I can recognize and honor what God can do through His own work and other people that I cannot. In a way, it’s its own small act of faith, entrusting both that God will make sure I stay afloat, but also that He will see to it that my giving is transformed into something beyond what I could ever imagine or do. Recognizing that where my limits end, God’s works can transcend.

Finally, while this post is about financial stewardship, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you could substitute the concept of money here with your talents, time, hospitality, and presence and it’d still be just as true. What better way to be the face of the living God on this earth than to serve in a ministry, share a meal, or be a comforting ear to someone?

In sum:

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— Pam Wong

Pam Wong is an All Angels’ parishioner, JH youth group leader, and host to the Brooklyn HC.

New Staff Spotlight: Jack Ricci

All Angels’ welcomed a new Youth Ministry Coordinator in August : Jack Ricci.  So that everyone in the All Angels’ community might get a more personal glimpse of Jack, as everyone on staff has been so grateful to have had, we decided to come up with five questions that would reveal a bit more of who the real “behind the scenes,” and in his personal life.

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1. What really matters to you more than anything else?

Jack: More than anything else, I want everyone, including myself, to believe that God loves them and will love them through eternity, and that they act that out in the world.

2. If you had the choice to do one thing on your day off, what would it be?

Jack: Spend the whole day with my fiancé Kate – doesn’t matter where we go!

3. What brings you joy?

Jack: Seeing the kingdom break through into our world through beauty, kindness, redemption, and trust. I also like when the Yankees win.

4. What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

Jack: I love 90’s club music. It’s heavily motivating and it’s great bike riding music.

5. What are you most excited about working at All Angels’?

Jack: Getting the chance to make an impact on the hearts of our youth, and to equip them to be their fullest selves for Christ.

Youth Mission Trip Update

All Angels’ Youth return from a week in Memphis participating in home repair and leadership development.

MEMPHIS – JULY 2018

Thanks to the generous support of family, friends, and the entire All Angels’ community, 11 youth from All Angels’ were able to spend a week in Memphis, Tennessee. In short, it was a challenging and transformational week.  Our team of 11 youth and 3 adults partnered with Service Over Self (SOS), an organization that has been serving the Memphis area for over 30 years with sustainable community development practices. They challenged us to see where God has already been at work – inviting us to join in the story of God’s movement in the place we came to serve. Our team helped repair roofs, cleared brush, served at a community center, met over 150 youth from around the country and learned from locals about their experiences of poverty, racism, and injustice.

Some highlights from the week include:

  • Finishing repairing two roofs of elderly homeowners that had extensive roof damage and yard brush removal needed to stay in their homes.
  • Visiting the Civil Rights Museum, located where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Giving us a better understanding of the history and context of the civil rights movement and how it connects to the biblical call to justice.
  • Learning from local Memphis residents about the political, social, and cultural differences from our life in NYC.
  • Spending time worshiping and praying as a team – being challenged to consider our role in bringing justice and truth to the spaces we live. We were called to remember that mission is not merely a trip we take or something that happens far away, but something we live day in and day out.
  • Sharing our own journeys of faith and hearing testimonies of people from Memphis
  • Learning the story of a man living on the streets, and getting to go shopping for him so he could have clean clothes for an apartment interview.

As we left Service Over Self, we spent time as a team debriefing the experience before returning to New York City. Youth reflected on how they wanted this trip to change and transform their life back in NYC. Here are some paraphrases shared by youth.

  • “I’ve seen the power of prayer. The team leaders could not be that happy and energetic at 6 in the morning without God’s help. I have tried praying more powerfully and boldly this week, and it felt nice. I want to grow in prayer.”
  • “I was moved by testimonies on our team. I want to take more time to learn about others stories.”
  • “I sat and talked with a family from Alabama. We talked about our lives, and I learned how different their lives are from mine in NYC.”
  • “I was hesitant to come on this trip, and often downplay with my friends when I’m going to church camp or on a mission trip. I want to share more openly with my friends about my faith.”
  • “I was so tired and exhausting trimming all those hedges – then the scripture came to mind about the vine and the branches, and it had a different meaning to me. Scripture came to mind about God giving us strength, and it made me want to push through the exhaustion and finish the task.”
  • “I realize that being a good friend is a two-way street. I want to get to know better people who are different from me, but I’m going to have to step out of my comfort zone.”
  • “It is not fun being around people who think so differently about things spiritually, culturally and politically, but it is good for me. It helps me see the bubble I am living in”
  • “Being without my cellphone has been good – I’m enjoying what we are experiencing and realizing I’m not missing out on as much online as I think I am.”
  • “I’m starting to understand the power of the cross. I hadn’t given it a lot of thought before.”
  • “I’m learning its ok to rest and not always be active. I overdo it, and then I get hurt.”
  • “I struggle with anxiety, but God has helped me push through my times of anxiety this week”
  • “I didn’t know I could feel so much joy shopping for someone else.”
  • “I feel pressure to always be funny – I’m learning I don’t always have to.”
  • “Big Dog’s testimony was so powerful. He’s right – I have a lot more in common with people who are different from me that I realized. We all need food, shelter, clothing, community, and love.”
  • “I don’t always spend my money the way others think I should. Part of human dignity is getting to choose how we spend money. Big Dog helped me think differently about giving money to someone who asks for help.”

All of us can find wisdom in the words of these youth.

  • When do we assume our differences are too vast to build friendships?
  • How can we stretch ourselves to build relationships with our neighbors who live on the street?
  • How can we lean into the power of prayer and scripture to sustain us in challenging times?
  • How can we learn from others who are different from us to stretch our own way of thinking?
  • Might we be surprised by the joy that comes with radically giving to others?