Last year I served at Holy Comforter as one of several Candler interns. Nearly every Wednesday afternoon, I would take a vanload of folks to Berea’s farm. The connection has evolved from brief tours to an exchange in which Friendship Center participants and Candler interns learn to work as a team to achieve concrete results on the farm and enjoy the (oftentimes literal) fruits (and vegetables) of their shared labor.
Our partnership with Holy Comforter is still pretty new, but I think it is a good example of what God’s New Creation might look like. Persons with mental illness and disability are all too often treated as burdensome waste. (Yes, I meant that.) They are rarely expected – let alone called upon – to contribute to the common good. But when this group gathers each Wednesday, we begin with the basic Christian belief that we have each been graced by God, and then we move from belief to action. We roll up our sleeves and dig in our heels and give back what has been uniquely given each of us. And in this receiving and giving, we unfailingly find ourselves caught up in an even more abounding grace. Not only have we worked for the common good, but we have found the Good common to us all – the Spirit of God in the world and among his people.
After we finished our work, we put away our tools and materials and headed back to the van. On the way, we stopped in the courtyard to close in prayer. This time, another Friendship Center participant offered to pray on the group’s behalf. As he did so, I couldn’t help but think, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” May the Church not fail in giving these members of the Body of Christ what is already theirs by God-given right – their good and proper place in God’s New Creation. And may Holy Comforter and Berea together offer more and more signs of the New Creation’s approach.