Crossing Boulevard

with Rev. Rachel


The sight of it all brought to mind Steve Hundley. It was as if he had plopped down next to me. WTVR’s cancellations rolled across the screen. Rev. Hundley (in spirit) munched on his popcorn and chuckled at all the canceled church.

The gist of how he put it, when superintending the churches on the Roanoke District: Folks can take care of themselves. They can make the decisions they need to make. You take care of what you’re to take care of, and sometimes—I’m not saying all the time—sometimes that’s opening the church when everybody else closes.

Tuesday morning, I kindly asked them to go away. But the questions bubbled up and got to gnawing anyway. What ever happened to embodying the non-anxious presence of Jesus? Or the Church’s refusal to be ratcheted up by for-profit forces that put us into a feverish frenzy? There was only one thing to do: Test the spirits (1 Jn 4:1).

I set out to see about a shovel, Stuart Avenue, the Annex entryway, and some help. What I got was a neighbor who grabbed his keys and shovel and gave three hours. What I got was another neighbor who joined us. What I got were the gentlemen working on the adjacent apartments’ sidewalks, offering first a smile and then to salt for us the stretch on which they’d been walking to and fro.

At the sight of walking paths emerging, I remembered all sorts of things. I recalled stories of how my grandfather commended working outdoors when graced with unanticipated holiday (which was to see, at the same time, my Dad rolling his teenage eyes and wondering what he ever did to have to be a PK).

I saw that shoveling is a lot like prayer. It weaves you into a web of thoughtfulness and receptivity and puts you in touch with your response-ability, which is itself a benefit, the initial hoped-for outcome aside.

And later I would really see. I would really remember. Here in our chapel, right at the place in the traditional reading where the prophet cajoles us: “Assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast (Joel 2:16),” there would be the unimagined sight of a child and his mother, ready to don the ashes of Wednesday.

Look for the signs, y’all. Don’t try and read them alone. And when you behold the nearness of the kingdom, by God, take it in and know that Lent is safe space to practice what it means live with eyes wide open to the immanent and transcendent.

UncategorizedDrew Willson