In the shadow of a Sydney public housing tower, light and love break out in a post-modern expression of ancient truth.
The purely secular event, addressed at times by politicians of the left, fulfilled quite superbly the principle of the good Samaritan.
Christians came, not with authority or position, but with that greatest of all influences – genuine friendship.
Amazing Grace was sung over the event with more power and pathos than might be found in many church services – not arranged by any human plan but because the request for ‘one more song’ drew it from the heart of the Aboriginal singer who stunned us with her voice and her spirit.
A once-was-a-pastor wandered around, sharing conversation, bridging gaps and encouraging residents and the young workers who gave up their Sunday to serve the community.
He promised his chocolate wheel ticket, if it won, to a woman who has little but loyalty and dignity. It did win and she promptly tried to give the prize back even though it would likely be the only thing of beauty she would receive for a long time.
Old friendships were renewed and far from confessional or altar, stories were shared freely of recovery and new hope amidst old battles.
Then, as if to show that God was pleased and would not be left out, was not afraid to be included, the microphone was handed to a young mother who was there with a small child, there because of her heart that is soft towards those who have had the hardest of lives.
She too had a winning ticket but, before she could receive her prize, was required to answer a question in front of the entire gathering.
‘What is love?’ asked the MC. And what a surprising question this was.
The young woman, her daughter playing at her feet, searched for an answer that was both true and respectful of the moment. All eyes were on her.
‘Love is many things’ she said, tentatively. But then, finding courage.
‘For me, I think about what the Bible says that love is. “Love is patient, love is kind… it does not envy, does not boast, does no evil, keeps no record of wrong, always hopes, always trusts”.’
And in that moment we all knew it was true, and quietly, without preaching, many were encouraged to remember the Source of love.
Joel Edwards of Micah Challenge speaks of the church no longer holding institutional or official power but needing to find grassroots legitimacy through its acts of justice, mercy and humility. I see evidence of this often. I saw it in action in the shadows of a public housing tower.
A community breakfast in this neighbourhood will continue at the Booler Centre on the first Sunday of each month, 8.30am to 9.45am.