The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1. 14, The Message)
Back in September, after Hurricane Harvey filled my home, the rectory, with five feet of water, the Vestry had a challenging decision to make. With two floods in a less than two years, did we rebuild? Did we rebuild and sell? Did we sell as is?
After a lot of prayer and a lot of conversion and a lot of research, the decision was made to rebuild. Knowing that it would likely take at least two years for a buyout to go through, we also made an application to FEMA and Harris County to buy the rectory.
Although we knew that we had made the best of a difficult decision, I wasn’t certain why that was the holy thing to do until a while later. I got a glimpse into why God was having me move home to Norchester in the midst of conversations with my neighbors.
I’ve lived in Norchester for twenty years. People know that the house belongs to St. Mary’s and that I am St. Mary’s priest. Slowly, over time, neighbors have begun to trust me enough to seek me out to have some conversations about Jesus. After Harvey, the trust had built to the point where some neighbors allowed me to bring them communion and to pray with them.
This fall, whenever I’d come by home, neighbors would ask me if I was moving back; so many folks were still trying to decide what to do. I gave them my answer:
Yes, we were rebuilding. The house belongs to St. Mary’s, and we want our neighbors to know that the Church is in the neighborhood. You are not alone. God is here.
It wasn’t until people began to weep when I said those words that I knew for sure that this was why I had to move back to my home in Norchester.
It wasn’t until I moved home during Eastertide and began to walk the neighborhood in the mornings that I really knew why I was coming home.
My neighborhood continues to look devastated. Yes, some house are rebuilt and and look better than ever. Others are in the midst of being rebuilt. Others have been abandoned. If there was ever a neighborhood that St. Mary’s and her priest needed to live, this is a place where folks need to be reminded that Jesus is in the neighborhood.
So I’ve bought a sign for my front yard. It says:
+ St. Mary’s Rectory + How can we pray with you? firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m going to invite parishioners to place the sign in the ground and bless it and the rectory on the Feast of Pentecost. I chose that day because that’s the day we recall that we were all given the power to be Jesus in whatever neighborhood we are standing.
Then we will spend the summer imagining and living as Jesus. In our neighborhoods.