A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to preach at Atlanta's Open Door Community's afternoon worship. Their tradition is to have worship service at 4:00 p.m. each Sunday which is followed by a community supper for all who are able to stay following the service. Though I knew the founders, Murphy Davis and Eduard Loring, a husband and wife team of Presbyterian pastors who sought to find the best way to live out their understanding of the Christian journey, I had not been there for years.The community is described as follows on the website:
"The Open Door Community is a residential community in the Catholic Worker tradition (we're sometimes called a Protestant Catholic Worker House). We seek to dismantle racism, sexism, hetereosexism, abolish the death penalty, and proclaim the Beloved Community through loving relationships with some of the most neglected and outcast of God's children: the homeless and our sisters and brothers who are in prison."
This small group of folks, about 23 at the present time, live in this intentional christian community in the wonderful Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta and offer weekly hospitality to many of our homeless sisters and brothers through the breakfasts and soup-kitchen lunches that are served. Along with this they provide showers and changes of clothes, staff a free medical clinic, conduct worship services and meetings for the clarification of thought on various topics, prison ministry including monthly trips for family to visit their loved ones at the prison in Hardwick, Ga. They serve as advocates on behalf of the oppressed, homeless and prisoners through non-violent protests, grassroots organizing and the publication of Hospitality, their monthly newspaper.
Last year, The Open Door Community celebrated its 30th anniversary. I have known Ed and Murphy since its beginning and my life has been blessed by their faithful witness, but in spite of the fact that we were less than one hundred miles apart we had not seen one another in over twenty years. But the amazing grace is that the time of absence from one another has made no difference. We are rejoicing about the joy of reconnecting and having it seem as if no real time has past. This is truly a sign that all of us have been on the path that we needed to be traveling. How wonderful to have our paths converge at this point.
My heart and my thoughts will always be turned toward the oppressed and the outcasts of our world. My work will always be focused upon trying to do everything possible to create the Beloved Community which will be free of racism, sexism, poverty, militarism, hetereosexism, violence and all other false constructs of polarization. And it is so heartening to be reunited with my friends at The Open Door Community and to continue this journey alongside them in more intentional ways as I keep responding to the call of my heart to write and speak about the matters of liberation for all people.
As far as I can see, there is no way to turn away from this work. Those who wish to do so are basically embracing an illusion. Since those who are being characterized in ways that dehumanize them because they have been designated as enemies who need to be feared and often hated cannot live well. There is no reason to seek a place of rest until everyone has an opportunity to live the best life possible for them.
The Open Door Community affirms the powerful message that there are no lines of division between us except the ones that we have constructed around race, class, gender, sexual orientation, physical and intellectual ability and any other differences that we can imagine. My reunion with them re-affirms that truth in very heartwarming ways for me and bolsters my hope and increases my courage to speak and to live for unity.