Readings for July 21: Gen. 18:1-10a, Ps 15, Col. 1:15-28, Luke 10:38-42.
We've been in Montreal for 5 days now and have spent 3 of those at the ST. James drop-in-centre getting to know the men who call it theirs. This is an interesting place. While it's called a drop-in, it's not really for just anyone. Who can be part of the centre? The men who use the centre become members of it, agreeing to certain behaviour guidelines, pitching in to help where they can, and deliberately becoming part of intentional community. This is a way to develop long-term relationships and belonging. If they treat others poorly, they are asked to leave. Alain says that when some of the men get back on their feet and don't need the help anymore, their space get freed up to take on a new member, but they always try to keep some spaces in case a man needs to come back for awhile. Getting off the streets and on your feet sometimes is a matter of try, try again.
There is a very wide variety of men using the centre, from a few who are quite mentally or emotionally disabled, to some who seem (at least at first glance) to be completely "normal". (Whatever normal is). It is really neat to get to know some of the personalities behind the appearances. It has taken away some of the "fear" I might have had in approaching a ragged looking person. There's one man I noticed that gives off a first impression that he is scary, rough, and who knows what else. Then, when you speak with him, he has the most gentle eyes, an engaging personality, and he's almost painfully polite. It's a good lesson not to judge people by their appearances! What matters here is how people treat each other, not how they look.
"O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on Your Holy hill?" Ps 15:1. The Psalm talks about what membership in God's family involves. There is nothing about how wealthy a person is, or what they wear, or how they smell, or what has befallen them in life. There is nothing about how smart or talented or appealing someone is. Membership involves committing to certain behavioural guidelines, truth telling, and treating others with respect. God's "tent" rules involve actions that build community with no mention of status or deserving-ness, other than that each member treat the others well.
On another note, it's been interesting to see the vast number of beautiful old sandstone cathedrals here, yet the population does not go to church. Church has a negative stereotype in this culture. Alain says that church planting here does not work according to old mission models. Here it has to be about long term relationships, slow growth, and community. Hard, long term work!