Creating and Cultivating Space for God to Move In
Second Sunday in Advent: December 9, 2012
What happens when we share in God’s grace and enter into relationship with another person, whether the person has been in prison or is a mother struggling to feed her children or is a senior citizen alone and lonely?
At the United Methodist Church for All People (C4AP) and our sister organization Community Development for All People (CD4AP), we have learned that relationship is what matters. It is in relationship that we are transformed.
When South Side Settlement House, a historic Mission Institution, closed its doors in September 2012, CD4AP was asked to continue some of its work. We discovered all over again the transforming power of relationships as we became a National Mission Institution this year.
God began a good work in 1899 when members of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society noticed children on the streets of the South Side of Columbus, Ohio, dressed in foreign clothes and speaking an unfamiliar language. The women began a kindergarten in a church, and the seed that became South Side Settlement House (SSS) was planted. Deaconesses came and lived among the people, and in the relationships they formed the Gospel was incarnate among them. As the neighborhood changed, SSS continued its good work for 112 years, forming new relationships and creating new programs that built on the hopes and dreams and strengths of the people.
CD4AP is proud to continue that heritage. Some previous SSS programs continue, and others provide new services in the community. The newest emerging ministry is the Healthy Eating and Living initiative (HEAL), designed to accompany people as they set goals and create action plans to improve their health. It is a holistic program where participants are encouraged to consider all aspects of their lives—body, mind and spirit. The program includes features that support and educate, such as fresh produce provided by our Mid-Ohio Food Bank; demonstration cooking classes, where folks learn to prepare foods in a healthy manner; and health and physical activity classes. At the heart of the program is a peer coach who builds relationship and accompanies participants throughout the program.
Folks who participate speak of changes they are making in their eating and activity habits and the effects the changes are having on their lives. They’re gaining confidence that they can be healthier, and much of that confidence comes from the support of the coach who encourages them.
And coaches are also changed. Sarah is a person who lives with her own addiction issues. As a coach, she’s developing listening and leadership skills that allow her to be in Christ with another. Beth is a young adult who had never known anyone who lived in poverty. Her coaching experiences, especially as she accompanies a young mother who wants to provide a safe place to live for her children and who daily faces the challenges of an inflexible welfare system, have been life changing for her and are helping shape her future career choices.
Relationship. Accompaniment. Being present to another. It is a holy, spiritual practice, because when we are fully present to another we catch a glimpse of what it is like to be fully present to God’s Spirit. When we enter into personal relationships, when someone shares his or her life with us and we come to understand this person’s joys and struggles, our lives are also transformed. When we create the space and the opportunity, Christ is incarnate and visible in us, around us and among us.
During the Advent season, as you pause to make space for Spirit to move within you and give birth to something new in you, also consider making space to be present to those with whom you would be in ministry and the unexpected places you will see Christ. O come, O come, Emmanuel!
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best. . . . (Philippians 1:9–10a)
Sue Wolfe is a United Methodist Deaconess in ministry as a Healthy Eating and Living Initiative Coordinator with the United Methodist Church for All People and Community Development for All People in Columbus, Ohio.