by Pastor Karen Brau
After a few rounds on a group text praying for a newborn, the tone of the messages changed. Our prayers at the start were asking for God’s loving care in the difficult time, they moved to a series recognizing the strain on the new parents, and then there was a text that caught in my throat – “Still praying for our baby.”
Our baby — implies a kinship.
The transformation in that text prayer group is similar to the transformation I know I will see and feel again over the summer day camp ministry that began this week at Luther Place.
Just this morning, 40 children plus adults and youth volunteers, showed up!
Our congregation, Luther Place, has resided on the ground at 14th and N Street NW, for over 145 years. Our name indicates the value we put on our location, and we notice that God keeps calling us back to listen and watch for what is going on in our “place.”
Someone once said, we continually are called to over and over, to put the place in Luther Place!
There has been place-based ministry with our neighborhood in various ways over time — a medical clinic for all ages, Head Start for children and an array of services for the homeless. And now, as we offer hospitality to children in our 6th year of ArtSmart Sumer Camp!
We give thanks for the team of leaders that asked the question a few years ago— who is our neighbor? And what does our neighbor require in order to thrive? We heard our neighbors say that they had a longing for a summer day camp opportunity that was local and affordable.
The engagement with neighborhood children has transformed us over time so that those children have become, our children. Just like the text prayers transformed our encounter with “our baby,” summer camp allows us to welcome all the children as, “our children.”
The ancient and faith-filled practice of Biblical Hospitality has changed us all so that not only is “neighbor love” being made real in our midst, we are together engaging the noble cause of building the beloved community. The dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is alive and well.
And because we believe that small local efforts are crucial in building the beloved community, we know that how we practice our faith in small things effects how we practice faith in larger things.
From our location in DC, we see children suffering at our southern borders and how families have been ripped apart. This reality breaks our hearts because these dislocated children are our children too.
This past Sunday, our flower arrangement, flowers in a cage, provoked us to recognize us that our children are being caged by our government. This cannot continue. Draped over the cage of flowers was a stole given to me by the Rev. John Steinbruck. on his deathbed. Rev Steinbruck pastored here at Luther Place from the 1970’s to the late 1990’s. This stole was given to Rev. Steinbruck in the 1980’s when Luther Place was involved in the Sanctuary Movement. Rev. Steinbruck received this stole in El Salvador where the church was blessed by the prophetic ministry of the Roman Catholic Arch Bishop Oscar Romero and the Lutheran Bishop Medardo Gomez.
The necessary work of liberation and healing for our children is not new and not done yet, and this stole reminds us that the work is passed on from generation to generation.
May we pray for all our children, and may we do the work of loving, nurturing and educating the children that are located in the place we serve. At the same time, may we have faith that concrete actions at a local level are crucial to building the beloved community across the globe.
And may we organize with others to do the hard work in DC that changes the politics that makes children being held in cages a horrible reality in our day.
Still praying for all our kids.