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.
“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.”
CM participant and part-time All Angels’ Support Staff team member
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keep food simple.
Plan quality time that involves interacting with each other rather than screens: talking, storytelling, puzzling, playing board games.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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:
Are we talking about boats today?
Why do we give?
What does God do with what we give?
Not quite Noah’s Ark
“No, we’re not talking about boats today…”
“…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:
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?
— Pam Wong
Pam Wong is an All Angels’ parishioner, JH youth group leader, and host to the Brooklyn HC.
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.
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.
And because of Christ, I must try to not worry about where my feet will be by the end of September. He’s going to provide green pasture and still waters and new sounds and sights and even new smells in my new town, in my new grass.
The title caught my eye. I clicked to open the daily devotional with hopes that the words
would resolve my angst about our upcoming cross country move. Moving to me is usually an adventure. New town. New Streets. New Friends. New fun things to do. But not this time. This time, we are moving to the familiar, a place I know well and a place that knows me. I have not yet figured out why that doesn’t bring me comfort.
Unfortunately, the written advice didn’t do much for my heart. While well-meaning and helpful for many, I found this piece full of Christian platitudes and Church-speak that means little in the midst of grief, fear, and anxiety. I can tell you all the reasons why we should move and I can tell you how we can see the hand of God opening the doors of this move, but I’m just not ready to leave my NYC life.
While the comfort did not come in the “advice” of the blog, it did come in the title: Be where your feet are. “That’s right, Beverly. You don’t have to be in Houston, Texas yet. You’ve still got months left in NYC and a lot of life in the midst of those months. Be where your feet are NOW, and then, when it’s time, plant your feet in Houston.”
As I continued to mull this over, three Scripture stories came to mind.
The first one is found in Genesis 19 It’s the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the salvation of Lot and his family. Scripture says that the land was covered in darkness, that it was a time when each person did what was right in their own eyes, following the desires of the their flesh and using people for their own gain and pleasure. Lot, a man of God, lived in the midst of this with his wife and two daughters. Angels came instructing them to flee, providing them a way out before God destroyed the city. Take a moment to read the passage below.
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” 16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords,[b] please! 19 Your[c] servant has found favor in your[d] eyes, and you[e] have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.[f])
23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
I see so much goodness from the Lord. He not only sought salvation for Lot and his family, but he even allowed Lot to negotiate where he would dwell next. “Please Lord, not there! We won’t survive in the mountains. We need a something a little closer.” And then, just as we are headed toward a happy ending for Lot and his family, we find those haunting words, “But Lot’s wife looked back.”
In the midst of their family’s salvation, Lot’s wife looks back. She dies, loses her life, wishing she could be somewhere her feet were not.
The second story is found in Acts 5. This is the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira who sold a piece of property. Rather than giving all the proceeds to the church for distribution to those in need, they held back part of the money for themselves, a clear violation of what God asked of them. While Scripture doesn’t tell us why they tucked some away, I wonder if they kept some back to make sure they had enough for the future. Maybe they were planners and living without a plan for the future was too much.
Ananias and Sapphira die, looking forward to somewhere their feet were not.
And then there is Jesus, who unlike Lot’s wife and Ananias and Sapphira, knew how to be where his feet were. In the midst of feeding the 5000, Jesus took time to teach the disciples important lessons about faith and provision. He could feed the masses and still work in an object lesson for his trainees. The hillside was full of hungry people and yet Jesus managed to be aware of who was sharing the grass next to his own sandals.
How about the woman with the issue of blood? Jesus is walking through crowded streets, pushed and shoved and jostled like commuters trying to exit the subway at ALL Times Square trains at ALL times of the day! And yet, he is aware of the tiniest touch of a desperate woman hoping for miracle.
Finally, there is Jesus on the cross. In the midst of the pain of the cross, knowing that his human death is imminent, he has the divine foresight to care for the future of his mother.
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)
Here’s where these stories collide for me:
There is coming a day when I will need to quit looking back longingly at NYC. But until then, I need to be where my feet are, in the middle of America’s most exciting city, rubbing elbows with humans from every nation in the world, listening to the music of trains, sirens, and the laughter of children, and waking up every morning to the smell of fried eggs, coffee, a party that went too long, and the brokenness of my homeless friend down the street.
And because of Christ, I must try to not worry about where my feet will be by the end of September. He’s going to provide green pasture and still waters and new sounds and sights and even new smells in my new town, in my new grass. “Until then, Beverly, be where your feet are. And then, when it’s time, move your feet to new pasture.”
Be where your feet are. That’s where we find rest, peace, comfort, joy, and safe pasture. Amen.
If you want one more story that really brings all this together, ask me about the squirrels at Marcus Garvey park!
Attending a new church is hard. It just is – no matter the reason. It is especially hard if you are an extroverted introvert. What that means is that if I am by myself in a room full of people I do not know, I will talk to as many people as I can and start making new friends because what else am I going to do? But if I know one other person, I will only talk to them and not talk to new people. So going to a new church with my husband (who is an introverted introvert) meant we didn’t really talk to anyone. And since we started going to church in the summer, it also meant that house churches (or at least the ones we were looking at) weren’t meeting.
So after attending AAC for three Sundays my husband and I signed up for the retreat, and by “my husband and I” I mean I told him if he wanted this to be our church home, we had to go to events where we would meet people and really commit, and he agreed (which is a big deal. Remember the introverted introvert part? I’m not exaggerating that.)
I was nervous about going to this big event, but excited to meet new people. I mean coffee hour at churches is terrifying for me, and here we were, going to a weekend long retreat with a bunch of strangers. And you know what? We did meet many nice and awesome people from both services. It was so great to see the whole church together.
It was more than just a meet-and-greet church social. I have always struggled with being close with my family. I just never understood how I really fit in with them or why I was the way I am when they are the way they are. Then we had to do an exercise where we had to create a genogram of our family. A genogram is basically a super detailed family tree (this is an oversimplification. If you want more, see my husband. He took a class on them.) As I was filling out the genogram, I started noticing patterns and seeing my place in the family. It all started making sense. And I took my quiet time, in the calm of nature, to really pray about it. After the retreat, I started opening myself up to my family more, and I started feeling more a part of them.
This allowed me to open myself up more to my church family. We are part of an awesome house church (which I highly recommend) and volunteer with the church sound team (always looking for new members!)
In short, I would recommend the retreat to everyone. It was really a wonderful experience (and I hope to meet you there!)