Vacation Time

Summer is vacation time for many people. This year, Bethann and I even took a short vacation. The first one in four years. We are grateful that there are faithful volunteers who step in and keep this ministry going. Jerry & Karen Burke made the soup last week and Jerry led the team on the street. Pat and Mike were there with sandwiches and power packs from St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church, Pennsburg. The McGraws from Holy Ascension Orthodox Mission were there with spaghetti and sandwiches. Students from Eastern University and Fred and Susie helped.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at our diocese’s Parish Life Conference to be on our Bible Bowl team and to represent our parish at the Fellowship of St. John the Divine and the missions report. That week, Michael Heveran and his mom made the soup and he led the team.
Thanks guys!

In God’s work, no one is indispensable, yet everyone has a job to do.

20th Anniversary Celebration

The King’s Jubilee completed its 20th year of service in February. We waited for warmer weather to celebrate. On Saturday, August 15, Dormition, we are having a potluck picnic at our house after the Liturgy at St. Philip’s. Please come. Bring something to throw on the grill or a salad or dessert, something to drink: soda, beer or wine.

There will be badminton, horseshoes and bubbles. We hope to have a short presentation on the history and future of The King’s Jubilee. We will break for Vespers at St. Philip’s at 6. If people want to hang out after that, that’s OK.
If it is rainy, the picnic will be moved indoors to the great room at St. Philip’s.

Your Presence is the Gift

Lately, we have had more volunteers show up to help serve than there are actual jobs that need doing. Some are discouraged by this and take away from this that they are not needed and there is no value for them to show up. This could not be further from the truth.
Jesus said “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) A better translation may actually be “the kingdom of God is among you”, since the “you” here is plural. God is love. The kingdom of God breaks into this world whenever and wherever His love is expressed or acted on in this world.

We serve food and we give away clothing and blankets because this is what people need. However, this is just an occasion and means to share the love of God. When we say we serve “in Jesus’ Name”, it does not just mean we say the words “in Jesus’ Name” as we ladle soup. It means that we are doing this according to the love of Christ. Jesus Christ compels us to be there. So even if there is no soup for me to ladle and someone else is handing out the sandwiches; if I am there because Christ compels me to be there to share his love in obedience to his command to “condescend to men of low estate”; it is ministry. It is sacramental.

Just hanging out and listening and talking is important. The fact that you make the trip and take the time honors the people whom we serve. We meet as equals. Who couldn’t use another friend? Your presence is the gift.

Twenty Years Doing What?

We have been serving meals on the street in center city Philadelphia to homeless and other poor folks one night a week for twenty years. For six years, we were also leading Bible studies and worship services in Graterford State Prison. For four years we were also serving meals on the streets of Pottstown and Stowe, PA, mostly to children, on Wednesday nights. For two years, we were also serving meals and giving out clothes to homeless people in Upper Darby on Sunday nights. For about four years, we also led weekly Bible studies and prayer meetings in Pottstown, East Greenville and Upper Darby. For two or three years, we served meals and shared clothing at two sites weekly in Columbia, South Carolina.

We hosted several all day open air concerts with free food in Center City Philadelphia, Upper Darby and Pottstown. We distributed hundreds of handmade cloth drawstring bags filled with needed items and New Testaments to women inmates in the Northampton County Jail. For about a year, we coordinated a free clothing ministry in East Greenville and found it a new home with Peace Mennonite Church.

Only the street ministry in Philadelphia is still part of The King’s Jubilee. Some of the rest were one time events. Some discontinued, because we no longer had volunteers or conditions changed. Some were shepherded to local churches who continued them for a time. The Clothesline is still operational in East Greenville, for example.

I almost forgot. For two years, we ran The King’s Jubilee Monday Evening Bible Institute, until all the students quit, because the Reformation was so bloody and depressing.

All during this time, we have helped families transitioning off of the street with furniture and household goods. We have channeled funds, computers, a golfcart and other materiel to other urban ministries who are serving in Jesus’ Name with no government support or entanglement.

This was all great fun and we would like to do more! We are always considering the possibilities for other areas and venues for serving the poor in Jesus’ Name. We are open to suggestions. Visionaries are welcome, if they back up their vision with elbow grease. Of course, none of these ministries would have been possible without the generosity and prayers of God’s people. May God abundantly bless you.

Look Tony! Boathouse Row!

When I started The King’s Jubilee, it was just me driving our red Subaru Justy to Center City on Wednesday night. I would have a couple loaves of sandwiches and maybe some clothes and blankets to give away. I would bring the cups and spoons. I would meet Deacons Les Bodger and Marvin Walker of the New Jerusalem Pentecostal Holiness Church. They would have coffee, creamer and sugar, more sandwiches and the end of day leftovers from Le Petite Boulangerie, this magnificent French Bakery by the Wanamaker’s. We served at JFK Plaza (Love Park) and in front of the Eliza Shirley House women’s shelter, if there were any leftovers. I put out our first newsletter TKJ Schematic, outlining my “scheme” for addressing poverty and homelessness in the region, on our Apple//c.

In response to that newsletter, our first donation came in along with a job offer from Wally Wolff. I started working at Diseroad & Wolff Architects in Hatfield and Wally started coming down to the city with me a couple times a month.

A cashier at the grocery store asked why I was always buying so many cups and spoons each Wednesday. She arranged for us to pick up the Campbell’s scratch and dents. Bethann started combining these to make large kettles of soup on Wednesdays.

My boss, Les Bucher, took an interest in the ministry. He persuaded his wife, Joan, to let us use her van to make the trip on Wednesday nights, and he drove. At that time, I was leading a Bible Study on Wednesday afternoons at Graterford. So Bethann would make the soup. I would swing by home, load up and head back to work. We would transfer the soup into Joan’s van along with any clothes and blankets that I had gathered and left at work and Les and I would head down to the city. We would arrive at the Love Park about 7pm.

More people got involved. For a year or two, almost every Wednesday night it was Les, Dave Shellington, Tony Lancanese and me, going down together in the van. We would jokingly refer to it as our poker night, as it was a night out with the guys. The first time Tony came with us, we entered the city on the Schuylkill Expressway. I said, “Look Tony! Boathouse Row!”

He went on and on about the crew team members he knew and how pretentious they were. He was so vehement that Les and I couldn’t help but laugh. We hadn’t seen that coming. So, from then on “Look Tony! Boathouse Row!” became known as the official TKJ tour of Philadelphia.

On two occasions, when we were giving away the clothes and blankets after serving the food, I found a nice plaid stadium blanket in a clear zippered case with a carrying strap. I thought, how thoughtful! God bless the person who donated this! That was perfect for a homeless person. I gave it away. The day after the second time I did this, I got a call at work from Joan Bucher. She asked where her stadium blanket was. It was missing from her van. I thanked her for it and told her how generous and thoughtful that was to provide that for a homeless person. God would surely bless her for this.

She told me that it was her emergency blanket and that she didn’t mean for me to give it away. I told her God would bless her anyway, especially for giving two. She told me if I gave away a third, we wouldn’t be able to use her van anymore. I told her I wasn’t to be trusted and that if she really wanted to keep it, she had better remove it from the vehicle on Tuesday nights.

Through the years, I have been guilty of giving away several jackets, hats, sweatshirts and umbrellas that were left in the vehicle by volunteers. I almost gave away Myron’s jacket last night, but I recognized it as I picked it up, and restrained myself.

Philosophy of Ministry

As I was starting The King’s Jubilee in the Winter of 1989, I shared my vision for it with about 150 inmates at Graterford Prison who attended the Bible Study that I led on Saturday mornings. I had seen many organizations who had started out with good intentions and Christian charity transmogrify into cold, bureaucratic structures that seemed to focus more on organizational growth and longevity and less on the people they professed to serve.

To try to cut that off at the knees, I made it a requirement in our founding charter that every staff member or board member would be actively engaged in serving the poor face to face. I asked the inmates what my task should be. The immediate consensus was that I should serve the homeless on the streets of Philadelphia. So that has been a constant in my life and in TKJ since then.

A stated goal of the ministry was to find the Body of Christ and to work for the unity of the church. We had seen too many people who started out doing frontlines ministries become alienated and spiritually shipwrecked, because their churches dismissed them as radicals; or didn’t see their ministry as valid, because they couldn’t count any new members at church coming from it.

After several blind alleys, we finally came home to the Orthodox Christian Church in 1998. Far from being radical, we haven’t even approached being normal in our service to the poor, compared with the Saints whose icons surround us at church.