Stories - The Center Stories
2018 Annual Report!
by The Center Baltimore on May 13, 2019 at 12:42 am
Our 2018 Annual Report is out now! Read it here.We are so grateful to all of our local partners, supporters, and visiting groups for continuing to make this work of transformation possible. […]
The Ruach of Spring
by The Center Baltimore on April 24, 2019 at 5:46 pm
The last thing one expects at the start of spring is to get hit with the flu (and yes, I got a flu shot this year)! So imagine my dismay when my visit to the doctor resulted in more than a sinus infection. It was prep week for UCC Norwell, a youth group coming from the Boston suburbs. Prep week can be hectic making sure everything is printed and ordered. I felt guilty being home and since I have never had the flu before did not realize how draining and long-lasting its effects. Though my temperature was gone I still missed Saturday orientation in order to be fully energized to meet the group and begin our week together Sunday. Sunday I felt a rush of energy and was ready to meet UCC Norwell. Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week I just knew God was on my side. In Amazing Grace fashion you cannot begin Holy Week without a short Palm Sunday processional into the church. As we gathered on the steps of the church to recite the beginning liturgy for service I could feel the excitement building. Then we began to sing and walk the four short corners near the church...here comes the shoe dropping! I promise it was not a fast pace and nor did I sing with full breath every verse, but that was it for me. By the time we hit the gospel lesson my body was done and my lungs were shot. A coughing fit sent me to the basement to try to cool down and calm my unending cough. I could hear Pastor Gary reciting the familiar scripture of the night Christ was betrayed. I silently prayed for my cough to stop so I could rejoin service, but not even the cough drop could soothe my overworked lungs. I was feeling betrayed by my body as I tried to figure out what all I could do to ease my cough. A slight break gave me the opportunity to return to my pew to collect my things and let Liv know I was going home. I overdid it, back to bed I went! So as Monday came, with determination and caution I went to Amazing Grace (AG) to finally meet UCC Norwell and begin our week of service with Natalie and the AG family. As Pastor Gary began giving background on the church and some of the initiatives it provides for the community, I began to think of my experience with the flu and this time of Holy Week and mission. As we began personal introductions with some congestion building up I introduced myself to the group reflecting on the creation story in Genesis. It is the ruach of God, the breath, wind, and spirit of God that is at work when we think of mission. It is the spirit of God creating a garden space where blight was rampant. It was the breath of God that I was praying for last week and on Sunday to fill my lungs and ease my cough. Our time and work in the AG space would be like the wind of God moving through the space and changing it as we work. See God and the Holy Spirit saw and moved among the void, but I defined it as opportunity, spaces for something new to be created, places where healing needed to happen. I reminded the group that it is this ruach of God that we should be looking for and reflecting on as we began the work that day. At the end of the week, with still a lingering cough, but a restored energy I reminded the group again that many have already began to comment on the changes they can see in the space. That though there is still much more work left to be done, that they should be proud of how God worked through them that week. That their spirit moved through the AG garden space and together we were able to create much needed change. Their energy was a much needed breath of fresh air for me, just as being out in the open after days in bed was needed energy for my healing. And so, though there will always be tasks left to complete at Amazing Grace, we could say with great confidence that this project is finished!-Mel, Hands and Feet Fellow It is finished! UCC Norwell takes a rest to soak up the sun and take a breath on the last day of service at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in McElderry Park, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Mel Lowry […]
Is That a Giant Wall of Junk?
by The Center Baltimore on April 1, 2019 at 8:29 pm
Only at first glance! Allow me to explain... At The Center we believe that it’s not our job to deliver God to our partner communities for God is already present in the communities our groups might visit! Instead, it’s our job as visitors and new friends to look for and join in the joyous and creative ways the Holy Spirit is dancing. As groups visit, a whole lot takes place. In the span of just a couple days, a visiting group member will meet many new people, make new friends, play games, share meals, travel all around Baltimore on a justice tour, play games, learn about their specific partner community, experience their mission site, attend evening programming and much more! As all of this is experienced, sacred moments abound. These sacred moments work on our hearts and sometimes they change our minds, urge us into action, or compel us to live differently. Given how powerful that sounds, these ‘sacred moments’ must look grand and spectacular, right? Fireworks? Large, blinking neon arrows? Sometimes! But, more often than not, these sacred moments jump out of the otherwise mundane. Sacred moments happen through conversation, when we meet people we didn’t know our hearts were missing. They happen when we listen well and encounter God in new ways. They happen amidst pain and decay when we are challenged. They happen when we dance and laugh, when we are moved to build relationships with each other by asking the hard questions. So, for the past four months or so, Mel and I have been working with our partners and our visiting groups to create a collaborative art piece that embodies and displays some of the surprisingly sacred, often goofy, sometimes challenging ways the Holy Spirit is dancing in Baltimore. We are asking visiting members and our partners to keep an eye out for a “Sacred Object,” something they find during their time here that reminds them of their experience. Sometimes the objects themselves, like the sacred moments I’ve described, are easy to overlook if you’re not paying close attention. So far, such beautifully sacred objects include (just to name a few) a door knob, a plastic frog, a piece of broken pottery, a drawing, and a glove. These objects have been added to their respective groups boxes and will later be added to the shelf. Once completed, this piece will be on display at General Assembly 224 in 2020 and will act much like a gigantic 8’x12’ shelf containing many shadow boxes of different sizes full of all sorts of sacred objects! Check out this rough sketch of what our Sacred Object Shelf will look like one day and some of the object descriptions our visitors have provided!-Liv, Hands and Feet Fellow A visitor’s reflection on a bent screw they found:“While helping JC the carpenter repair some of the old raised flower beds I had to remove that screw. It took a lot of effort to get that bugger out. Afterwards, I felt attached to it. It’s been in my pocket for the last day and I keep pulling it out and trying to bend it back to being straight again. It wasn’t until tonight that I realized it was perfect the way it was. Sometimes when you walk into someone else’s community it might look crooked and bent. The instinct is to take action immediately and fix it. Before you’ve even taken time to just be with it. In time you might learn that which looks crooked or bent is beautiful just the way it is. The problem was your eyes and lack of perspective.”A visitor’s reflection on a small, fresh cut wooden pyramid:“I’m drawn to new things. This piece represents the construction of new plant beds and all that they will mean to the community. I had a similarly sized and shaped piece of wood in my dining room table growing up. My mom told me it was from our old house. I suppose that makes it an old thing, but this new thing reminded me so much of it. All of our work this week focused on creating room for gardens and for things to grow. This piece to me helps symbolize that transition from old to new. God, however, did not show up in the soil or wood, but in the people who were excited to have us help and appreciated our work.&rdquo […]
Peace, Love, Joy
by The Center Baltimore on February 27, 2019 at 7:51 pm
Temperatures started at 10 degrees and cars are caked with ice and remnants of snow from the unexpected storm that blew in the day before. It is a typical winter Saturday, but for me and part of a group of 8th graders from Alexandria, VA, it was the first time assisting with the Harundale Presbyterian lunch program. A service that has been serving meals to the community in Glen Burnie for 30 years. During lunch I talked with Charlie, who at 73 years young, helps faithfully with the program and knows all of the people who come. The meal started with a trickle of folks and slowly a few more people started coming in. This allowed for the students, their adult leader and I to sit and eat with guests. Some went to another church to see what items they were handing out for the start of the month. A few told me that there are several churches who like Harundale assists the community with food, clothes, household items, toiletries etc. About a half hour into lunch Ms. Joanna walks in with a smile and greets Charlie, as many others have done also. She walks over to the table where I am sitting and with a deep breath of tiredness begins to take off her coat and sit next to me. Jason, who recently started attending Harundale and helps in the lunch program, began setting Ms. Joanna a place setting before going to prepare a plate. She greets the table with a smile and another deep breath. It is still cold outside and her voice was slightly horse. I don’t know exactly what we began our conversation with besides the cold weather and the reason she was out of breath and a bit horse, but for the next half hour or so I talked with Ms. Joanna about life. Joanna (Bloom) Clouse, 88 is originally from the area, though she had moved to Ohio for a while with her husband. She has been a widow for 53 years but has come to enjoy being single. Her theme is “peace, love, joy;” which is inscribed on purple plastic key chains she gives out whenever someone does something nice for her. She said it is her way for giving back. That if people see these words they should remember that there is nothing to be mad about. She is still finishing rehab after falling and breaking her femur. Ms. Joanna says she is grateful that she broke her femur. It had become a blessing to her personally and she is able to minister to the people at the nursing home while doing rehab on her leg. Every so often during our conversation she would stop and say how much she loves her life with the biggest smile that she almost seems moved to tears. She would pause and beam with such joy that one can truly feel how much she really means what she says. Ms. Joanna hasn’t had the easiest life. She has kids who don’t care to talk to her and a granddaughter who is about to move in with her. She does not seemed bothered by any of life’s setbacks and focuses on how she is able to see God’s goodness. Ms. Joanna works part-time at a local restaurant and comes in to the lunch program to make ends meet. Charlie came and sat with us before Ms. Joanna left. Afterwards I asked Charlie what brings in people to the lunch program. He told me he’s learned there are at least 25 different reasons people have consistently come to Harundale. Anything from not getting along with family to homelessness to just a way to make food stretch in the home. He says some find it easier to be homeless, some just barely make enough on the job. He believed that the low numbers on Saturday was because it was a pay weekend. People probably got some money to get the things needed for the time being. In total 29 plates of food were served; and I learned a valuable lesson on how to have peace, love and joy guide my outlook on life. -Melva, Hands and Feet Fellow […]