Thursday, May 23, 2013

A community of sharing

There are a couple words for church in the New Testament. When Paul writes to the “church of Such-and-Such”, the word is ekklesia, which literally translates to English as “assembly”. It’s just some folks who get together and follow the Way of Jesus, which was pretty radical back in the day. The other word the New Testament uses is koinonia, which is more like communion than organized church. The much cited apostolic community in Acts 2, the one where everyone shares their stuff so that everyone has enough, is described as a koinonia. Otherwise stated, the essence of koinonia is sharing.

I like to think that at South Loop Campus Ministry we are developing koinonia.

See, at SLCM, we originally intended to only minister to college students, but when homeless folks showed up to our Sunday night community meal, based on a Christian ethic of love, we couldn’t just turn them away. However, very quickly, homeless people outnumbered students on Sunday nights, and I know that I started having doubts about continuing to serve them. This is a campus ministry, for crying out loud!
  But then I starting getting glimpses of koinonia breaking through our well laid plans. As we kept handing
That's a lot of agua. Photo credit Giacomo Luca.
out sandwiches to homeless people on the street after dinner, a couple of homeless people, Ashley and Tony, started guiding us. That meant that we didn’t have to keep wandering around aimlessly hoping that we would happen upon some folks under Lower Wacker Drive. In another instance, during one particularly chaotic night when we already had a skeleton crew to set up, one of our student leaders stepped up to keep everyone (mainly over 30 homeless people) occupied and calm. Another student leader realized that all the leftover dining dollars from students’ meal plans could be used to purchase drinks and snacks for SLCM. Giacomo raised $5,000 in just two weeks. Another time we arrived at Grace Place with supplies for dinner, and we were surprised by a group of homeless folks already preparing dinner for the group. Sometimes the Holy Spirit just moves, and I sure as hell want to move with her.

There are more challenges for South Loop Campus Ministry, both now and in the future. It continues to be difficult to reach out to students at a university where religion is an unwritten taboo. I know that we haven’t figured out the ideal balance of working with homeless folks and with students. However, what we’ve started at SLCM was without a doubt inspired and resourced by the Spirit of God. I am sure that God does give us enough to live abundantly here in the world, but it is up us to share what God gives us. At SLCM, our essence is sharing. As we work through the quieter months of summer, we have the opportunity to figure out better ways to share not only material stuff, like sandwiches, bottled water, and socks, but also our empathy and love. That’s a koinonia worth developing.

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