One sure sign of summer’s warmer weather is the increase of activity along Wayne Street outside Trinity. People walking for exercise, leading dogs on leashes, heading to a business or other destination: it’s a bustling place. Occasionally I get to take my lunch break out in the Cloister Garden. I enjoy it, partly because I feel like I can observe without being observed----eavesdrop on conversations as friends walk by, listen to the radio music enjoyed by the crews working on our Chapel, spot the local legends like the skateboarding trombone player (yes, I have seen him!).
The garden offers a serenity that is hard to match other places. Thanks to Sue Foreman, it is lush and lovely, with different scents wafting on the breeze. The soaring steeple and statue of St. Francis add religious iconography to remind me I’m at a church. It’s a rare opportunity to be present, unplugged and ‘in the moment.’
My professional background started in journalism (television news, to be precise), where daily deadlines ruled my schedule. Newsrooms are noisy places and there is very little ‘down’ time. I am still a bit of an adrenaline junkie, at least in terms of mental aerobics. I have a hard time sitting with a quiet mind. I want to know what other people are doing, what they are saying, whom they are seeing. Our workdays around here are fairly busy: there is never “nothing” to do. But sometimes that cacophony of “other people’s voices” gets awfully loud. I can sometimes focus on the noise instead of what we’re trying to do.
If your only experience with “church” is that it is quiet, and peaceful--- well, you aren’t here during most weekdays! It’s a vibrant, energetic place of ideas and collaboration and shared approaches to addressing challenges and solving problems. I bet your day is a lot like mine: people needing your attention, phone calls, e-mails, texts, assignments, deadlines…. There is never a lack of need, so the rare opportunity to sneak out into the sunshine and breathe in the peace of the garden is a real day-changing, mind-altering experience. I commend the invitation to you: if it fits your schedule one day this summer, bring a sack lunch and come sit in the garden. Breathe. Listen.
That still, small voice you hear there just may be your own.
I don’t know if everyone has been going full-tilt, as my mother would say, but life has been very busy around here lately.
Every morning (almost), I start my day by spending some time on my treadmill. It’s a chance for me to be active , but not have to concentrate too hard, so I can go over my day’s calendar in my head.
More and more, the agenda includes reaching out and responding to people who’ve been interested in something going on at Trinity. Recently, I’ve met with people associated with the United Way, Arts United, the Center for Congregations, Amani Family Services, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, the Downtown Improvement District, City of Fort Wayne, the United Negro College Fund, Fort Wayne United and several other groups working to improve our community.
The weekly Race Dialogue on Wednesday evening has been an eye-opener in so many ways—and though my own family is transracial, I have been humbled to find that I, too, have much to learn about life for those who do not look like me in our community.
I’ve gone on “field trips” to Heart of the City Mission Church, to see how they try to meet basic needs for people in their neighborhood, including food, clean clothing and the assurance that someone cares.
Recently, Kierstin Kellermeyer and I visited with the folks at Windrose Urban Farm, over on Lafayette. The nondescript blue building houses a mushroom growing operation, the likes of which I have never seen. Who knew mushrooms could be so interesting? But listening to the manager, Chris Knipstein, talk about the medicinal and nutritional properties of the mushrooms (which are almost beautiful when you start looking at them) it was hard not to be engaged. Perhaps a unique aspect of the business is that it operates as an employment program for young adults with autism and other developmental challenges. I will definitely be looking for their produce and their soups at the Barr Street Market this summer (which starts this Saturday!).
Blue Oyster Mushrooms growing in the fruiting chamber at Windrose Urban Farm
I guess I just want to share with you all how many people and how many types of people are in and out of this building and in and out of our social circles on any given week at Trinity. In every case, I am confident that we see in each other the eyes of Jesus, as we make our way through life in the center of a very busy downtown community.
You would have been amazed at the number of people in and out of the doors to Trinity recently. On Mondays and Fridays, we host the Coordinated Entry program, to help those people living without shelter to get connected to permanent supportive housing and other assistance. Several men, women and families were referred to the services provided by Park Center, Brightpoint and 2-1-1 to go through the assessment and get connected to housing and resources to help with other needs.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Janet Altmeyer and a team of well-trained volunteers listen to dozens of our community neighbors who are just not able to meet all of their needs. The volunteers listen, pray with and for our guests, and then try to help direct them to sources of food, clothing, family needs and other support missing in their current situation. It’s a sight to see, our 6-8 volunteers sitting with 30 or so neighbors, offering coffee, playing with their children, lending an ear to people who sometimes need to vent as much as they need anything tangible.
Wednesday evening, we had about 100 attendees for the last Community Dinner of the season. People come to get a ‘home-cooked’ meal and to have a bit of community. Listening to the friendly conversation as the children from E3 and adults from the various Wednesday evening activities join with our neighbors, you might not realize some of these folks never met before this meal.
Wednesday evening, we continued our Race Dialogue with about 60 attendees. We were gifted with the stories from three African American moms, raising children in Fort Wayne. They were generous enough to share a glimpse with us into some of the ‘standard’ discussions in their homes: what to do when a police officer pulls you over, for example. Because the assumption is: this will happen. So part of every parent’s commitment is to explain how to stay safe when their child gets pulled over
Thursday and Saturday, we served as the hub for dozens of volunteers helping the City gather information on what happens downtown at various times. They will use this information to figure out ways to increase the number of people coming downtown for positive activities and reasons. Many of the workers had never been inside the doors at Trinity English, so it was fun to introduce them to our building.
While I was serving a shift as the receptionist during the City’s project on Saturday, I met a young man who said he has been waking up for the past several months looking out onto our steeple. He has been a resident of The Salvation Army program just across Washington Blvd. After seeing that steeple so often and finding his way back to a healthier lifestyle, he felt drawn to want to see what was inside here. It was my privilege to show him around and talk with him. I understand he and a few friends came to church Sunday.
There is no “typical” day here, and one of the greatest joys of working at Trinity is getting to see what each day brings—and who it brings. Listen, stop in and see me, anytime: I’d love to show you around and have a chat!
My life is just never boring. I get to meet such interesting people and learn about a wide variety of topics in this job! This week alone, I met with a local (female) business owner who has started a non-profit urban farm that grows mushrooms. Maybe the most impressive aspect of the year-round growing operation is that the employees are all young adults on the autism spectrum. I met with her to explore whether there may be a way to include the mushroom growers in one of the most exciting projects we’re planning at Trinity… a farmers’ market!
Look for details coming soon, but we are preparing to host a weekly market this summer, starting in July---assuming the season actually ever changes, and we do have crops and fresh produce and warmer weather…ha!
Additionally, I met with a gentleman who is involved with the local fruit-growers group, whose stories about the therapeutic powers of soil and seeds almost had me ready to slip on overalls and get my hands dirty. Almost.
I also enjoyed meeting with a colleague at the Renaissance Pointe YMCA, to discuss ways children of Trinity and children at the Y might be able to get to know each other better. I love visiting that gorgeous facility, which I got to witness being built from the ground up when I worked for City government. She also invited Pastor Erdos to participate in the recognition of National Day of Prayer on May 3--- more details will be available next week in case you’d like to join from 6 -6:30 p.m.
Some of the staff here at Trinity toured Vincent Village this week. The organization was co-founded by an interfaith group that included the late Bishop John D’Arcy and our own (late) Pastor Richard Frazier. Seeing the homes and the families who live there, the new houses under construction and the former Coca Cola Bottling Plant redeveloped for loft-style apartments is a huge win for our community, and it feels good to know Trinity had a small part in making that all happen.
Kierstin and I spent most of Thursday at a communications workshop hosted by the Center for Congregations. We came back with a ton of ideas and a few new connections to peers and resources we can call on to help us out here. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a day to try to organize all of the knowledge, creativity and enthusiasm around here. We really do draw a lot of energy from the notion of bringing opportunities and experiences to the congregation and to our community.
Be sure to let me know how you think Trinity can change the world through Jesus!
Recently, I had the privilege of sitting with about 16 of our Open Doors volunteers and talk about the program. Back in July, we started opening the Wayne Street doors from 10 to 2, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. At that time, we had about 34 people who stepped up to say they would take some shifts to be greeters to welcome anyone who wanted to step into the Nave.
Most of these good people are driving in from the suburbs, and it has been a long, cold winter --- people weren’t doing much strolling for pleasure the last few months. We wondered if the volunteers were getting at all discouraged, with sitting, many times with no visitors.
It was heart-warming to find that the answer was a resounding show of support for continuing the program and for seeing it as an important way for them to live out the charge to be loving to our neighbors. In fact, they were suggesting ways to be even more welcoming : perhaps offering water, prayer cards, and more dog treats for those out walking with furry friends. They wanted to think about ways to add music and to welcome people into the Cloister Garden on nice days.
It made me so happy, to see these people encourage one another and build on each other’s ideas. They’re excited about meeting new people, sharing a smile or a story, and getting to know their “partner greeters.” Soon, the weather will warm up consistently and those big wooden doors will once again be propped open. I guarantee you’ll see some of the brightest smiles and most caring hearts you’ll ever meet, waiting to wave and greet you and welcome you to Trinity and to Jesus.
Until I worked here, I really had no idea what all happened in the church building between Sunday mornings. Well, I can tell you: it’s really astonishing the number of people and projects that pass through each week! Regular visitors like the Dorcas Circle ladies, who work on sewing and other philanthropic projects; our Study Connection students from South Wayne Elementary; the guys who come in to count offerings; our Open Doors volunteers and so many more.
This week, I got to meet with a representative of the Southwest Area Partnership, the collection of neighborhoods in the quadrant of the city that includes Trinity English. For years, neighborhoods have met to discuss and address issues that are common to all. Many challenges and opportunities don’t fall along neighborhood association lines. Areas may experience break-ins or street tree disease or speeding traffic but the solutions will involve more than just the people in those particular blocks. Trinity is working to be more connected, and this is one more step we can take to be present with our neighbors.
I also met with a woman who is overseeing the United Way’s book drive for children. They’ve identified more than 40 sites, so far, where people can donate new or gently used books for children to use during several summer reading programs. They needed a space to bring all of those books under one roof to filter and sort them. We have several empty classrooms, one of which will fill the bill for what they need for a couple of weeks. Her gratitude reminded me that there are many things we can do, as Trinity, or as our individual selves, that seem easy but which can make a big difference to someone else.
I was passing through the gathering area Tuesday morning when a couple came in, asking about assistance hours. Laura let them know that they could come back at 1:30 (four hours from then) and someone would be available to meet with them. The couple, visibly uncomfortable asking for help, nodded and turned to leave, but Laura’s kind voice and manner offered them some coffee, “just made fresh,” which they eagerly accepted. They left with smiles and heads held maybe a tad higher, having been seen, greeted and treated with hospitality. Those little moments happen all the time around here.
The staff is always working, trying to connect with and support the congregants who are here each week, those who can’t make it in regularly, and the various community members we touch. There is never a shortage of work to be done, of answers to be found, of challenges to be addressed. Trinity may look like a sturdy old stone building on the outside, but on the inside, the rhythm and the energy is hopping! Even when you aren’t here, we’re working on your behalf, helping spread the good news and finding ways to share Jesus’ love with the neighborhood.