I just love that phrase, "Holy Chaos," and it is truly felt and experienced as you spend time with this amazing community of people. The beautiful fresco, the free restaurant, the cultivated garden area, the free barber shop, the health care clinic, and the Respite are likely the pieces that get headlines, but for me, what made the biggest impact were the relationships that were so very evident during each moment of my visit. People whom broader society has cast aside are truly valued, empowered, included, and seen by the faith community at Haywood Street
The worship time was unlike any I have ever experienced, where housed and unhoused neighbors and siblings gathered as one to give God the glory, no one greater than another. I've long espoused the idea that ministry is done best in community, meaning we don't simply minister to others. Rather, we minister with and through others. In most cases, this has been somewhat idealistic in my own ministry, but I saw it exercised in practice here.
The worship service was led not only by church staff but also by regular attendees, housed and unhoused visitors, and others who desired to share their gifts with those gathered. A particularly impactful time was a sharing time where a few attendees were invited to share the gifts with which God has blessed them. Prior to the soloists and poets being invited, one of the Pastors said something that I have recounted in my own ministry context, "I don't want you to misunderstand me. You are not just welcome here. You are necessary. You are necessary for us to be who God has called this body to be." After a wonderful message on inclusion and everyone having a seat at the table, which was largely a dialogue where congregants were invited to give their own input, the service was concluded with the congregation singing "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone.
My visit to Haywood Street gave me a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God right here on earth can be. It's definitely messy and, admittedly, chaotic at times. But when God's people keep the main thing the main thing--love God and love each other, some of the rest just fades into oblivion, and all that's left is relationship. All that's left is giving the shirt off your back to a brother, sister, or sibling. All that's left is Holy Chaos. All that's left is a place where we are all not just welcome but necessary.
Josiah and his family live in Harrisburg, PA, where he is a pastor at Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren, an urban ministry in the Allison Hill area of Harrisburg.