“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” That’s how Finley Peter Dunne, a journalist from the early 20th century, described in part his job as a newspaper reporter.
Sounds a bit like Jesus, doesn’t it?
Jesus comforted the afflicted people around him, giving lepers new health, the blind their sight and the mute their voice.
But he also afflicted the comfortable, making enemies of the Pharisees. Telling a rich young man it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for him to enter heaven. Or insisting that we must turn the other cheek and walk the second mile. And expecting us, when we have been wronged, to forgive the wrong-doers endlessly.
Jesus had a way of turning things upside down, so we would see things with a new perspective.
Old First is in the midst of a revitalization initiative that is meant to do the same thing: turn things upside down a bit… afflict us where we have grown too comfortable with the way things are, so we may be given back our sight and begin to do a better job of comforting the afflicted– in mind, body or spirit.
The morning of Sunday, October 23 Old First will try something new. Turn things upside down a bit. That day we will be a Church Without Walls—stepping out beyond the comfort of our traditions and home space at 4th & Race into a world of affliction.
We regularly send out visiting service camps to do good works. It’s only right that we do the same as a congregation. This will be our own whole-church service project that morning… stretching our worship traditions to be worship in action.
The morning will be organized in partnership with Ray of Hope Project which rehabilitates existing homes in low-income neighborhoods and Greater Philadelphia Cares that sponsors neighborhood clean-ups and annual winter coat drive and organizes volunteers for both our Saturday Cupboard and Shelter Dinners. We have relationships with both organizations and work with them regularly.
Once we get some idea of numbers of people participating, we will learn the specifics of our project. It looks like we will serve in the 3400 block of W. Hutcheson and the 800-900 block of West Ontario in the Fairhill Section of North Philadelphia.
We could put up sheet rock or paint a kitchen, repair a roof, clean up a vacant lot, fix a fence or weed a whole block. No construction skills are required. We will make sure there will be something for everyone to do. (We will organize supervision and an activity for the kids if possible.) Those who aren’t capable of standing for long stretches or lifting heavy materials will be able to help too.
Here’s a schedule for that morning:
9:00 am — Arrive at the designated location, for a breakfast with the neighborhood and an orientation by Mr. Gant. (We can also organize carpooling or groups to go by public transit from the church.)
9:20 am — Divide into working groups
11:45 am — End of work shift; time for religious reflection on our service.
(There is a whole model offered to us by the liberation theology movement of action followed by using the Bible for reflecting on our service.)
12:15 to 12:30 — Head home (though some of us may want to head off to lunch together)
For those who do not wish to participate in that Sunday’s Church Without Walls, Michael will be inviting a guest preacher to lead worship back at Old First. Worship at Old First will focus on our “apostles and missionaries” out in service. It will also be a break from our usual worship traditions.
Sign-up for our Church without Walls Sunday Service Project will begin on Anniversary Sunday, Sept 25. We need everyone signed up by Sunday, Oct. 9. The sign up sheet will be at the Wellspring Table during fellowship hour. Alternately, you can also let the Church office know that you want to participate.
Join us as we try something new: if it makes you a little uncomfortable, that may just be the point– to help us get that new perspective! But fear not, the church will not ask you to be in a position is that unsafe or ask you to do something you do not want to do.