It’s 7:55 a.m. on an already hazy, hot, and humid day in the old
immigrant town of Reading, Pennsylvania. I have just pulled up in front of St.
Mark’s Lutheran Church with our old diesel short school bus to pick up
kids for day camp.
No one is around. There are a few high school youth dragging along, heading up
the hill to Reading High School for summer school. They are not enthusiastic.
And then the row-house doors start opening, up and down Windsor Street, and up
and down Tenth Street. Excited kids came out wearing backpacks and getting goodbye
kisses from their moms. They were ready to roll. They don’t need television
or video games today. They’ve got day camp!
Veteran urban pastor that I am, I recognize that Pastor Katie Lyon has clearly
been practicing “parish as place.” Katie knows the kids in her neighborhood.
Katie knows their moms. Katie speaks their language, the language of Christ.
The children and the moms are responding to her invitation to come and meet Jesus.
On this morning, I wish I had a video camera. My partnership in ministry has
placed me here this morning, gathering up these children of God, and transporting
them a few blocks up to St. Luke’s.
Pastor Katie is my colleague. She is a new mom. She has been a pastor for a little
more than 3 years. And Pastor Katie gets it. She gets this neighborhood
ministry “thing” that has long been a hallmark of the Lutheran practice
of urban ministry in so many old neighborhoods in the northeastern United States.
It isn’t complicated, really. We Christians make it so complex sometimes.
It is the human side of life. It can’t be learned fully in any school.
It is learned in the classroom of life. Being present for people with the love
of Christ means living with them, sometimes amongst them, but always sharing
with them the joy that is ours in following that street-walker from Galilee.
On the street, in close living, in face-to-face reality that stands in such stark
contrast to the I-Phone/Internet world where you don’t know the person
who lives next door but you talk regularly with people far away, there still
is no substitute for face-to-face, hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart contact. Sometimes
it appears that technology is putting that tried and true method on the run,
but not really. It is an illusion.
On this bright June morning, I say a prayer of thanksgiving for a colleague with
whom I am proud to be in ministry in this old immigrant city.
God’s Spirit is alive and active in the back alleys of life, moving across
the cracked brick sidewalks of early morning, silently searching the world for
the lost and hungry, for those who are thirsty for fellowship with the Almighty.
Sometimes we get to help out in that search and in that gathering.
Thanks, Katie, for doing such good job in your calling as “pastor” at
Tenth and Windsor Streets. May God multiply our efforts. May all the glory be