Our current adult forum series is titled, “Standing with the Most Vulnerable.” Each Sunday we have featured a ministry or a topic that concerns people on the margins of society, people that are vulnerable to abuse or neglect. In many ways, this series is inspired by Matthew 25:31-45. Jesus describes a scene of final judgment in which people learn that when they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick or visited those in prison, they did these things to Christ, himself. Jesus identifies ministry with the vulnerable as a way to connect with him. There are, of course, too many categories of vulnerable people to explore in the time we have. We have focused on a few areas where there is significant interest right now in our congregation and shared what some small groups are doing. No parish can do everything, but you may see something that needs more of our attention. Please speak up.
We all know that people living without permanent housing, “the homeless,” are among the most vulnerable in our society. St. George’s has a reputation in Fredericksburg for service and radical hospitality with persons in need. I was impressed when I got here two years ago to see the way this parish welcomed “John,” a homeless man who sat in the back pew every Sunday. John has not been around in a while, but people still ask about him.
There have been other homeless persons who regularly visit on Sunday or during the week. Our approach has been to leave the doors open and to make it clear to our guests that we have boundaries that must be respected. We always try to learn people’s names and treat them with respect, even when we have to be firm about the rules. We do not allow people to sleep in the church, smoke indoors, or leave belongings unattended without permission. We ask people to respect the worship service. I believe we can be hospitable to these vulnerable persons, “welcoming the stranger.” By doing so, we welcome Christ. I have seen some of these strangers bring unexpected blessings, gifts of the Spirit. At the same time, I do not want parishioners to feel so uncomfortable that they cannot worship. Strangers can make us feel vulnerable too. Some people have been worried when a disheveled-looking person is in the church and seemingly out of touch. This is understandable. It concerns me as well! Please know that behind the scenes, your clergy and staff are reaching out to social service agencies for support, and we are getting to know these persons. If we feel there is a danger, we act immediately to address it. If you have a concern or just want to know more, please come talk to me, Gay, or Carey.
Welcoming the stranger and standing with the most vulnerable is not easy or simple. Please pray for God’s guidance about how best to be a compassionate community. We are all vulnerable in some way or another. I want St. George’s to be a place where all God’s vulnerable children are welcome, all God’s vulnerable children are safe, and all God’s vulnerable children know that they are beloved.