Erica and I woke up around 6am last Saturday morning. We needed to get at least some of the pile of dishes and clothes washed so we could stay afloat the next week. The window of freedom was closing on us. Our sons were with my mom for only another 24 hours. How in the world were we going to pull off housekeeping, a neighborhood prayer walk, a training in nonviolent fusion moral direct action, and a date night in 24 hours? I wasn't feeling too spiritual to lead the prayer walk in less than a couple of hours. I managed to come across a passage of Scripture in Isaiah:
Isaiah 43:19 - Common English Bible
Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
paths in the wilderness.
A fitting text to anchor our Ole Asheboro city village in a posture of curiosity and trust to engage in prayer with our neighbors. What a morning of discovery we had. We prayed with four groups of people, two on the streets, two in the front of their homes. There were moments of tension: a language barrier with a Latinx woman, suspicion from one black woman we often see on the street from dusk to dawn, and the frustration a black trans woman had with her friends' unwillingness to put away their 40oz. Lingering for one second longer proved transformative. That tension, which felt like a desert and wilderness place for a moment, gave way each time to connection with our neighbors. As we shared a bit of each other's stories through prayer requests, several themes emerged:
- Grief - the loss of loved ones, the known or familiar, and physical ability.
- Re-connection with children and family
- Housing justice
We prayed for them. They prayed for us. We prayed together, gripping each other's hands. We were standing on holy ground, amongst sacred presence, as we encountered each story, each person. At least one person within each of the groups we encountered was the steward of the sacred. They were the spokesperson, the mediator, the shepherd. Each of them was the path to intimacy in that moment. The path through the wilderness of distrust and apathy that could've defined the encounter. That is not how it happened, though. We concluded our prayer walk with new names, faces, stories, and contact information with which to become familiar in the days and months ahead. To recognize that we don't have to search far for the presence of the divine. We can find the Holy One on the corner, the streets, the porches of our neighborhood.