The body of Christ in Danville is truly acting together, each part with different gifts and roles, but all for the same purpose-showing everyone the love of Christ and following Jesus. What is unifying Christians from all different backgrounds in Danville? A movement called "Grace and Main" that brings together people from every socioeconomic level and race to eat together, fellowship together and worship together.
The Lutheran section of this body of Christ is Ascension Lutheran Church, a church known for its decorative chrismons during the Christmas season and its hospitality during the rest of the year.
||Pastor Meredith Williams begins to serve communion before the community meal at Ascension Lutheran in Danville
Hospitality is an important word with Grace and Main. So, what exactly is Grace and Main? Well it's not a church, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. An intentional community, missional, and other phrases and words have been attached to the group but the easiest way to describe them is just to tell their story.
It all began with a few young couples who began meeting to study the bible and read the book
Crazy Love together. During conversations in this bible study, the couples decided that they wanted to begin inviting people into this community, people who may not be welcome in any other setting.
Along with a Bible study, they began having small meals in their homes with neighbors and people who were homeless or struggled with substance abuse. It started small, with 10 or 12 people, and then began to boom to 40 or 50 people. Soon they got to a point where they needed a larger place to gather.
When Ascension Lutheran Church heard about this intentional Christian community, they wanted to play a part in what was happening. A few years ago Ascension began hosting a meal on the last Thursday of every month, a tradition that still continues to this day.
"We went into this knowing that this is more about relationships with people," said Meredith Williams, the Pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church. "We focus on the prepositions. We aren't cooking FOR people, we are doing things WITH people. People in our community who are homeless or addicted are the people who come in early to cook or stay late to clean up."
This is not a soup kitchen; this is truly a family meal. Everyone serves themselves and it feels like a Thanksgiving dinner once a month. The food works to solidify that message. Once the meal is brought out, people's mouths begin watering even before it hits people's plates. A feast of roasted pork loin, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, steaming broccoli line the table, one night a chilled cantaloupe soup even added a little flare to the meal.
Josh, one of the leaders of Grace and Main, stood up before the meal the night the chilled soup was served and prayed for the group, "Bless this time that we might learn to love our brother and sister a little more. That we might all be one big family at one big meal."
Later Josh was reflecting back on the beginning of Grace and Main.
"The buzz word for us is hospitality," he said. "We are always looking for new ways to be hospitable and that doesn't just mean sitting around and eating. That has meant opening our lives to make room for people."
Ascension Lutheran in Danville has jumped in with both feet as they partner with the Grace and Main to figure out where God is taking the community next. One of the biggest pieces of news is the hospitality house that the members of Ascension Lutheran bought to donate to Grace and Main.
"We get involved in a part of our community because we care about people, not because we expect any sort of Payback," said Pastor Williams. The whole congregation joined together to donate money to buy the house for Grace and Main and the surrounding property which is now being used as a community garden.
Other churches in the area also join together to support Grace and Main both financially and with other events and projects, but the ministry is especially close to the heart of Ascension. Whether it is cooking meals together, cookouts in the park, bible studies, a tool library, or life skill classes, the emphasis in everything that the congregation does with Grace and Main is rooted in how Jesus sees people, that each person has value because they are loved by God and created by God.
"The people who are poor and addicted in our community have a lot to give," said Pastor Williams. "They usually just don't have a place to give it."
"One of the guys that comes on Thursdays says the most beautiful prayers and he also is schizophrenic and hasn't always had a place to clean up. Having a place for him to come and to participate has been incredible. Because he has a name and he has a gift."
As the inclusive Christian community continues to grow, Ascension Lutheran will continue to help bring more of God's Grace to Main Street.