Saturday, September 22, 2012

In the Beginning...

I finally have a mostly stable source of internet in my apartment, so in the next few posts I'll be sharing about the program I am part of here in Seattle!

Although my official title is Volunteer Coordinator for Mary's Place, on Saturdays I work at the Church of Mary Magdalene, and today we had a special service to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the church, and to welcome the church into the new space at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. So this is probably confusing; what are these two places with similar names, and why are there two churches mentioned here?

In the beginning, there was the Church of Mary Magdalene:

The church was started by Pastor Jean Kim, who preached this morning and explained her call to this ministry. 21 years ago, nearly my whole lifetime ago, Pastor Kim started the church out of the back of her car for homeless women. In her sermon today, she explained that you can be homeless physically, which many of the women who attend the church are, but also emotionally and spiritually. She said that this church was so important because you can be saved from your physical homelessness, but if the emotions and the spirit are not healed, then you'll still be lost. (Her stole has a rainbow and the words "No Homelessness")

She therefore decided to name the church after Mary Magdalene, who Jesus healed from 7 demons. Pastor Kim stressed that Mary Magdalene and many other women were Jesus' close friends and disciples although men are primarily mentioned in the Bible. Women today, then, can find healing in Jesus, and we can minister to each other in community. Community is such a big part of the whole organization, which is obvious through the many women who continue to attend church and help out at Mary's Place after finding homes, and by the hugs that we share while "Passing the Peace."

What Pastor Kim started in 1991 grew until more services for the women of the church were able to be provided, which turned into Mary's Place the day center in 1999. Now the two are separate organizations, but they are still connected by the women, and some of the staff members (like me!).

For reasons of space constraints, Mary's Place and the Church of Mary Magdalene moved this summer into a beautiful space in Gethsemane Lutheran Church, so now Mary's Place happens during the week on the bottom floor, and the church exists on Saturdays in the sanctuary upstairs. (Hopefully this cleared up all the names I threw out at the beginning!)

So what do I do at the church? On Friday afternoons, I prepare this huge and not-so-easily-maneuvered cart with our instrument box, hymnals, mic & amp, keyboard, music sheets for the songs not in the hymnals, a projector, coffee supplies, feminine products, bandaids and aspirin, cups & plates & silverware, two music stands, two small tables, a compost bucket, thank you notes for the breakfast and lunch cooks, the bulletins, the key to the outside trash door, and probably a few things I end up forgetting and have to run back downstairs to get! Yes, this is a pain in the butt. Most of this stays on the cart during the week, and I just have to refill the coffee supplies and eating supplies, but hauling it upstairs every week, even with the help of two staff members, is frustrating to say the least. And then we get to bring it back downstairs afterwards! I always end up forgetting things, ugh.

Luckily though, we do have wonderful breakfast and lunch crews who come in with a meal prepared, and once the cart and things are upstairs things tend to run pretty smoothly! During breakfast, the women sign the thank you cards, and we give one to the breakfast folks. Then we head into the sanctuary for a hymn sing at 10, and the service starts at 11. The hymn sing is awesome because anyone can call out songs they would like to hear, and Sari, our music director, plays the keyboard and sings fabulously while we join along.

To start the service, I go up and do some announcements about Mary's Place activities (although I usually don't know what to say so I get my Camp Director face on and say Really! Happy! Crowd-Pleasing! Things!) We'll usually do a Call to Worship (some of this might be out of order, but these things all happen at some point), one of the women comes up and leads us in our Affirmation of Faith (which I will have to post because it is mind-blowing to me), we take a moment for silent confession, we Pass the Peace, we have an evangelism moment where Pastor Linda passes out fliers for the church and encourages people to tell others looking for a support system to come join us, we share testimonies, one of the ladies reads the scripture, Pastor does the sermon, the choir sings, we have an offering, and we have some closing remarks.

Offering is probably the coolest part for me. We get two pieces of paper, one to write something we are giving to God, and the other to write something to take back with us. At offering time, we go up and burn the one we are giving to God. This can be an actual intent to give back, like your devotions or your time, but it can also be a way to lay your burdens down. Lately the latter option has been what I give, and I think those are important too because you have to give up the time spent worrying or the memories that fill your head when they get in the way of your relationship with God.

I really like it though because this past year or two I've realized that I missed the reverence for God and recognition of His holiness in growing up, and I've wanted to have that be part of how I see Him too. The burning reminds me of how offerings used to be made in the Bible, and thinking about the chemical changes that occur in it make it nature-y to me, and I get happy about God in nature. It's also really cool because I think it requires faith to do, like a prayer. If you're writing things down and keeping them, then you have proof they exist, and it could just be a message from you to you, or to whoever reads it. But by writing it and burning it, it only existed for a few minutes to you, but after burnt it no longer exists in the world. So you need faith to believe that God received the message.

Oh! Other important thing about the church! It is ecumenical, and completely open to any religious persuasion or lack thereof, which is awesome. The women can be there for whatever reason they feel, and with whatever beliefs they hold. Some people only come for meals, but many people stay for the service and share their stories with each other.

At the end of the service, we call the lunch crew up and welcome them, giving them the signed card, and we head into lunch. Up to two of the ladies can sign up to earn some money doing cleaning jobs after lunch, so we take a trash run, wipe down the tables, and make sure everything is out that is ours.

Annnnnnnndddddddddd then at the end of the day we scramble to make sure all of the items return downstairs, which stresses me out, but it gets done, and I'm off to my weekend! It's actually a really nice weekend too because I usually get home around 5:30-6:00 from a normal workday, but on Saturdays I get home around 3:00 unless I hang out in the city on really sunny days, and then I have Sunday and Monday off. And Monday is great because everyone in town is at work except me, so I usually try to sight-see or catch up on reading. Or both!

So. Long post, but now you know about the Church of Mary Magdalene, and I will soon disclose the secrets of what I do at Mary's Place! (Which is sure to be longer.)