On Faith: Homeless challenge, reaffirm our faith

05/06/2014 12:00 AM

05/04/2014 11:56 AM

Epworth United Methodist Church on Hope Valley Road has launched a new ministry called “Bags of Kindness.”

A group at the church got together for the first time recently and packed zippored bags with such things as bottled water, sunscreen, granola bars, Chapstick, toothbrushes and toothpaste and clean, dry socks.

The idea is that church members who often see folks panhandling as they drive by will have something to hand such people when they roll down their car window to give them a greeting. This is not only an affirming act for a Christian but also an excellent example to set for children who may be wondering just how to react to the poor folks they see on the street.

Many of us feel awkward when we come face to face with a homeless person or someone begging on the street corner. We sometimes give in to an urge to say something like, “Why don’t you get a job and get off the street?”

I have found that if I say “Good morning,” ask their name and even inquire about how their effort is going on this particular day, I often have a pleasant exchange even when I’m talking out the car window while waiting at the stoplight.

Several years ago, a small group of Duke Divinity School students noticed they were seeing the same people every day at the corner of U.S. 15-501 and Mount Moriah Road as they commuted to school. They decided to start providing lunch on Wednesdays on the service road along this busy highway and holding a worship service at the end of the service road periodically. They invited anybody who wanted to come. I was one of those who did.

It was startling to see homeless, mostly men, but a few women, walk in out of the woods, sit in camp chairs in front of a makeshift altar, listen to the proclamation of the Good News, and share together in Holy Communion.

I admit to many epiphanies during the time I attended and wrote about this ministry, which blossomed into what is now Open Table ministry.

One: It’s hard to go to a job interview on the morning after sleeping on the ground in the woods.

Two: You wonn’t find anyone who appreciates a gift any more than a homeless person given a pair of warm, dry socks on a cold, wet January day.

Three: You don’ have to give money. Often, your greeting is accepted as a gift.

Four: Help is out there for these people, but they need transportation to get to the help. Some also need a Social Security number and a mailing address. Try filling out a job application without either and you run into a brick wall.

It's difficult for me to drive past someone begging without acknowledging his or her presence. I admit it, I always wonder if that might be Jesus out there.

These homeless folks are less visible now because of city ordinances, (out of sight, out of mind) but when I see even one, I remember the important role they play. They are a constant reminder to those of us who say we are followers of Jesus that, like it or not, we are our brother’s keeper.

Orthodox Chorale

The Triangle Orthodox Chorale will present a concert titled Sacred Orthodox Music of the Ecclesiastical Year at Durham’s Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The concert will be under the direction of Elia Nicholas and accompanied by organist Irina Monzolevskaya. The 40-voice chorale will perform a selection of hymns celebrating major Christian holy days. The hymns will be sung in the original Greek, with English translations provided.

Some of the musical arrangements are by contemporary composers, although the poignant and timeless lyrics date to the first millennium after Christ. The chorale includes choir members from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox in Raleigh, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Charlotte, All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cary as well as Saint Barbara.

A $15 donation is suggested. Proceeds will benefit the chorale's ministry and Saint Barbara's building fund.

Doors will open at 6:15 p.m. and seating is limited. A reception in the fellowship hall will follow the concert.

The church is located one-half mile south of I-40 Exit 274 at 8306 N.C. 751.

Chapel to close

Duke Chapel announced last week that it will close to the public on Sunday as part of a restoration project that includes rehabilitating the ceiling and replacing the chapel's original roof.

Sunday worship services are tentatively set for Baldwin Auditorium during the summer and Page Auditorium in the fall of 2015. Christmas and Easter services may be moved to larger locations.

Despite restoration work, Duke community members and campus visitors can count on one thing staying the same: Daily ringing of the chapel's carillon bells will continue every weekday at 5 p.m.

Lutheran camp openings

St. Paul's Lutheran Church still has openings for Camp Agape Day Camp to be held July 21-25 at the church, 1200 W. Cornwallis Road.

This camp experience is available for children in grades 1-5 for the coming year. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with early drop-off and late pickup available.

Trained staff and counselors from Agape-Kure Beach Ministries will run the camp. Activities will include singing, hiking, crafts, nature study, Bible stories, games, group outings and snacks.

Registration forms are available through the church office. For more information, call 919-489-321.

Contact Flo Johnston at flo.johnston314@gmail.com or call 910-361-4135.

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