Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Matthew 11:16-19, 28-30
When I first viewed this video as one suggested to link to today’s reading, I knew I had to show it to you all. It was a good news story I was ready to hear. Alberton, Australia is a long way from Winfield, yet the situation around which the Pear Café came to life is one we can all identify with. It speaks of a community where people were living isolated from one another. No one knew their neighbors, people pretty much kept to themselves. And then one day, it becomes known that a family lost a loved one unbeknownst to anyone else. This sad event turned the tables on how people thought about their surroundings and who they were sharing space with.
The idea of a café was born, creating a welcoming space where locals can meet up with others, have a cup of coffee and a chat, and learn new skills. It has had a major impact on the area’s sense of community and residents’ well-being. This is an example of a Social Enterprise. Social Enterprise is a concept that is gaining momentum, not only in the free-market economy but also is starting to be embraced by Churches.
Social enterprise can be defined as…. revenue-generating businesses with a twist. Whether operated by a non-profit organization or by a for-profit company, a social enterprise has two goals: to achieve social, cultural, community economic and/or environmental outcomes; and, to earn revenue (source: BC Centre for Social Enterprise). So, in other words, social enterprise applies an entrepreneurial approach to addressing and creating positive community change.
Our Thrift Store could be classified as a social enterprise. At the heart of what happens through donations of clothing and household items, the sorting of those things, preparing them to be put on the shelves, we believe that we can help change lives for the better providing low cost items, to have a positive impact on our physical environment by reducing waste in the landfill…we have a benevolent sense of purpose towards our actions and the many hours that are volunteered to make the store a reality.
The Thrift Store just reopened on Thursday of this week for the first time in nearly four months…a new way of doing business has been implemented because of COVID to keep customers and volunteers safe. It really marks the next chapter in our thrift store’s 50 year-old story. You have heard me mention the Transition and Visioning Team and that we have meeting these past several weeks with the intention to ask the questions around who we are and what it is we are doing here? How does Winfield United relate to its neighbourhood? These are big questions. One of the ideas that has been proposed is a coffee service in the Matthews Room for the Thrift Store customers to come and mingle with one another as well as members of our congregation.
Just as the woman in the Pear Café suggests, coffee was the idea to bring people together. And who knows where this simple offering could take us; maybe we serve toast too. If there is something that COVID has brought to light, it is how we are all susceptible to feelings of isolation, boredom, and loneliness. We are social beings who need human connection. Maybe this is a new chapter beginning for the Thrift Store….maybe another layer of need is identified and with what we have, become intentional about addressing it. The Thrift Store is a doorway opening into our community, and in this new phase of going forward in the midst of a pandemic, we ask ourselves are we ready to walk on through it.
Jesus’ words this morning from Matthew are both challenging and reassuring. He calls our attention to who is in our midst. Who is feeling bored, lonely, and left out, sitting on the dock of the bay? Who do we judge based on appearances and are unsure about getting to know better? Since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, we are being called to a greater consciousness around how we relate to one another, the assumptions we make and the biases we hold. John the Baptist… Jesus himself… were judged by their community and assumptions were made. We too do this. Bringing a community together means having conversations, it’s about hearing, more fully participating in the experiences of another, not so I can say oh yes that happened to me too and then proceed to tell my story, but to really listen and learn. I think this is what Jesus is getting at partly when he speaks of a gentle yoke and rest for our weary souls. We are weary from COVID, you don’t need me to tell you this morning. We are in this odd place of holding the tension between a virus that is raging south of our border and beginning to reopen and figure out a new way of interacting with one another, knowing virus has not run its course completely and a vaccine is not yet available. Our work as church going forward is going to be different, the sanctuary has gone out of the building, into your homes every Sunday morning and at other points during the week as our small groups continue to meet virtually.
Jesus is putting forth his own call to hospitality and pastoral care…come and rest he says but there is still work to be done, things that will fill you and sustain you, but right now, come and rest. My point this morning is this… in light of the invitation in Matthew to find rest from our weariness, how can we as a community of faith address in meaningful ways the isolation and loneliness experienced by others in own neighbourhood and larger community of Lake Country? I hope the Pear Café story is one you will savor in these coming days as we consider picking up the yoke and help shoulder the load of another. Amen and Amen.