Radical Love Project

Prayers and Tears and Beer

We celebrated Easter by holding a memorial service under the bridge today.

Usually, we just bring food and hang out for an hour or so. We make contact, listen, hug, but we don’t preach or pray. Not that the subject of God doesn’t come up… we get asked whether we’re Christian pretty often, and our friends love to tell us what they think about God. But we’ve tried hard not to come in with an agenda.

Today we showed up for a memorial service for R. He took his own life with heroin this week, and one of our friends said there’d be a service today at 1. We arrived right on time (like good middle class folk, I suppose) but weren’t too surprised to find no service happening. People were hanging out, so we did, too.

N. took us aside, because he wanted to talk. He asked us to pray with him, and told us stories about his childhood in an orphanage. He treated us to his beautiful poetry about his heart-wrenching love for God—poetry that would probably earn him a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, in other circumstances.

After we left N., we went over to talk to a few other folks before leaving. After chatting a while, L. told me that he’d come for a memorial service for R., but apparently it wasn’t happening. I checked with C. about it, and she said “Nobody showed up.”

“We showed up,” I told her. “L. showed up.” She shrugged. It became clear to me that nobody knew how to make it happen, so…

Did you ever learn a lesson, and discover you had to learn it over and over again before it “took”? The lesson this time was that you don’t need some authority or a peace of paper to love people. I imagine myself inadequate to the task of ministry. Who am I to think that I can do anything? And it might be true… I’m not good enough; I don’t know what I’m doing.

The thing is, there’s not a lot of competition in this field (or this park). It’s not like some brilliant, compassionate pastor is vying for the job. Today just brought that home for me (again). These folks needed a minister, so I became a minister. Me—flawed and inadequate as I am.

We stood in a circle and held hands, talked about grace, said a prayer. Folks passed around a beer in R’s honor. (They skipped me and Tracy. What’s up with that?) It was one of the most amazing “church” services I’ve ever witnessed—barriers broken, real heart-connections forged.

Allelujah! We are so blessed.

Posted by Angela under stories
Monday, April 13, 2009

30 Comments

  1. tracyharms says:

    Yes, it was quite a gathering. Thanks for writing it up, Angela.

    I got a glimpse of the ancient practice of sacrifice when C. poured some of the beer on the ground, in R.’s honor. It was a moment of earnest symbolism that seems to fit the lives of those who spend a lot of time under that bridge. (I can set aside the way it doesn’t seem to fit my sense of Jesus’ message about sacrifices, I guess.)

  2. Angela says:

    Yeah, it was interesting. A very natural, in-the-moment thing.

    It hadn’t occurred to me to see it as sacrifice. I’m curious about your ideas around that. I imagine we’ll find time to talk about it. :)

    I am so glad to have you as a partner in this work. It was amazing to watch the way you opened up to people today, in both venues. I love the way you let love in.

  3. Kent Harrop says:

    Thank you so much for this beautiful witness. I am a pastor, having served for over 25 years. Your memorial service ‘under the bridge’ reminds me to look for those who don’t gather in our churches on Easter morning. I serve on an advisory committee for a local Meth rcovery house called Thugz Off Drugz….I do my part to support this ministry….but I’m mindful that none of these guys or gals that I know of were worshiping with us on Easter. I’m wondering if the felt welcome. I’m wondering what I can do to offer hospitality, as you and your friends offer hospitality…in the name of the One who welcomes all of us to the Table.

  4. kathyescobar says:

    just beautiful, angela…

  5. KrisBelucci says:

    da best. Keep it going! Thank you

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  1. [...] happen when you listen to the stirring in your heart & step out of your comfort zone.  i love this story from the radical love project in eugene, OR.   beautiful, [...]

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