In early August, several of us gathered at Annmarie’s place to share a meal and to learn more about the capital
campaign. That was the first time I got a real detailed explanation of what campaign is all about. Almost
immediately after Nancy explained everything to us I thought to myself, without hesitation “This sounds
great, let’s do it! I’m in.”
Now, it’s important to know that I am a very deliberative person who thinks deeply and earnestly about important decisions. So why did I respond so quickly? Because I believe in Old First’s commitment to hospitality and service.
And I just want to talk about that right now.
Almost every week Pastor Michael reminds us that “Old First welcomes everyone, no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey.” This is a commitment to hospitality, a commitment to welcoming everyone who comes through these doors to worship alongside us.
For a relatively new guy, who has only been a part of the Old First community for just about a year now, this
welcome is exactly the kind of welcome I needed.
I remember one of the first Sundays that I came to Old First, Rich showed my wife Mimi and I the church’s garden. We were pretty struck by the enormous tomato vines back there. After giving us the tour Rich picked a perfectly ripened tomato and handed it to Mimi, a gift. It
was such a nice gesture. Later, I thought to myself how this type of hospitality is what I’ve been looking for. If you have guests over, it’s only right that you take interest in them, show them around, and maybe send them off with a little token to let them know that they are appreciated. Now, I’m not saying we set up some policy where every new visitor gets a free tomato on the way out, but it couldn’t hurt.
As for service: Matthew 25:40 says “Truly I tell you, just as you did to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Yesterday, on my way to the Saturday morning breakfast cupboard, I saw a few men sleeping outside of the African American Museum on 7th & Arch. I walked up to them and asked “Would you guys like to have breakfast with me?” They said yes. So I said “Well, my church is on 4th and Race, be there by 9:30 and we’ll have breakfast.”
Through Old First, I was able to help a few guys get a warm meal and change of clean clothes on a dreary rainy morning. This small but meaningful gesture was possible, because Old First has a commitment to service. Now, I have only been volunteering at the Cupboard for the past few months, but you all, this Old First community, has been committed to homeless ministry for the past 30 years! Moreover, in 1984, when Old First opened its doors to provide shelter, it was the first church in Philadelphia to do so. That’s amazing. That is amazing!
My hand is in because I want to be part of something big. I want to help make this thing grow, so that we’re able to warmly welcome more people for worship and community. I also want to grow our capacity to help those who are on the margins of society, to show them Christ’s redemptive and transformative love. To feed them when they are hungry, to give them drink when they are thirsty, to clothe them when they are naked.
The last thing I’ll say is this, in the Campaign for Old First video, Pastor Michael says “We’re not what they expect church to be.” Now, I know what he meant by this, that if your expectation of church is some super judgmental, dogmatic, homophobic, science-rejecting, history denying, exclusive club, then right, “we’re not what they expect church to be.” But as for me, after spending a year searching for what I find at Old First–a fellowship of believers committing to the gospel in word and deed; who are boldly stepping out in faith and courage in order to extend its welcome and strengthen its service– This is exactly what I expect church to be!