Sooo, what am I actually doing at Pilgrims? No two days have been the same yet, so I actually have a difficult time answering that question. Here is a taste of my day-to-day adventures and what I’m learning from them:
On Mondays, I alternate between volunteering at nonprofits with Rachel (my supervisor with the Pilgrimage) and tending to the urban garden Pilgrims runs in their backyard (Sacred Greens). The Pilgrimage is a service-learning hostel in the basement of Church of the Pilgrims. It hosts groups who come to DC looking to engage in service and justice work. They’ll volunteer with organizations serving the working poor, homeless, and hungry in DC. We also do workshops, Bible studies, and reflections about what groups see and experience. Rachel and I visit the nonprofits that Pilgrimage groups work with so we have a chance to process the experience together. This gives us a better context for understanding what the visiting groups will process. On the other Mondays, I help tend to Pilgrims’ urban garden behind the church. I gardened sporadically at Davidson, but never enough to feel confident gardening on my own. I try to absorb as much as I can on our gardening days. We use the produce in the garden to cook meals for hungry and homeless folks at Open Table.
Tuesdays begin with a worship planning meeting with Jeff and Ashley. We discuss what we noticed and wondered about the previous Sunday, then look at what’s on the docket for the upcoming service. My most consistent Sunday-morning responsibility thus far has been biblical storytelling, which entails memorizing the scripture lesson and acting it out during worship. I’ve told the story of the snake and tree of knowledge of good and evil, Cain and Abel, Sarah laughing when told she was going to have a son, Joseph promising to take care of his brothers after their father dies, and a parable from Luke where Jesus tells the disciples to be alert and awake when the master comes. Storytelling has been one of my favorite responsibilities at Pilgrims thus far. I’m going to a workshop on biblical storytelling on Friday with the YAVs, so more on this later. After the planning meeting, Ashley, Rachel and I have a meeting to talk about all things related to the Pilgrimage. We also practice the examen, which includes questions that gauge how we’re doing and feeling. Almost all of my meetings at Pilgrims begin with some relational component. This facilitates vulnerability; we feel more connected and invested in each other before we begin discussing logistics.
Wednesdays are chill. I read, I write, I start learning the story for Sunday, and maybe do a few one-on-ones, or relational meetings.
My last few Thursdays have been filled with meeting the candidates for mayor of DC through the Washington Interfaith Network. I’ve now attended meetings with three candidates running for mayor of DC: Bowser, Catania, and Schwartz. Since I’ve only been here less than two months, meeting with the mayoral candidates has felt like a crash course on the political and social issues of the city. I’m planning to register and vote in DC since, thanks to these meetings, I now feel more connected to what’s happening in this city than in North Carolina (where I’m currently registered to vote). Thursdays are also my weekly reflection meetings with Ashley. She sends me a few questions to ponder the day before, like what was energy giving/energy draining, where I felt like a leader, whether I surprised myself, what do I feel myself being drawn to in ministry, etc. These intentional times for reflecting on work life, community life, and personal life have been some of the most illuminating and life-giving moments of my week.
Friday is community day! We have a well-being check-in, participate in a devotion together, and share a meal. Then Sarah, our site coordinator, takes us on an adventure, whether it’s an exploration of the root causes of poverty, visiting the National Museum of Women in the Arts, or attending a biblical storytelling workshop. Our community days have been simultaneously fruitful and challenging; I’m grateful for the opportunity for structured community building time.
Saturday: my new day of rest zzzZZZZzzZZzzzzzzzZ
Sunday is woooorrrrssshhhiiiippp! The main event! We meet at the church at 9 to discuss who’s doing what. I then attend adult education, which relies on a different member of the congregation every week to prepare the class. For the first several weeks, the adult education series was on how human beings are vulnerable, so members of Pilgrims discussed how their careers allow them to interact with and serve vulnerable people in DC and beyond. Sometimes I go to the children’s Sunday School, where we participate in “godly play.” This is based on the Montessori method, which understands children as autonomous, eager for knowledge, and capable of initiating their own learning in a thoughtfully prepared environment. Afterwards, we all file into the sanctuary (including the children! Pilgrims’ philosophy is that we aren’t fully part of the body of Christ if the children are separated in a nursery or Sunday School during the service. There are three stations set up for the children throughout the sanctuary that each have different theological underpinnings, allowing the liturgy to meet children on their own developmental level. It’s awesome). I’ve had the opportunity to participate in part of the worship liturgy, including the call to worship, thanksgivings (people in the congregation shout out what they are thankful for) and then passing the peace. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve also fallen into the role of the storyteller. After the service, I change into more athletic clothes, grab a soccer ball out of Ashley’s office, and take it to the garden, where there are hungry folks waiting for Open Table. I’ve actually only kicked the soccer ball around once; its primary purpose is conversation starter. The ball elicits memories of childhood sports, which leads to recollecting families, lost relationships, struggles with addictions, and more. My role at Open Table is to be a witness to these stories.
That’s more or less what my work week has looked like thus far. It’s been ton of fun, and I’ve already learned so much about myself, issues plaguing the city, what church life entails, and how all those things intersect.
PS. I’m running a marathon on Sunday and feeling mildly unprepared. I’d really appreciate happy thoughts or prayers, whichever you prefer.