Gifts of Place and
by Anna H. Bedford
Read Psalm 107:1--9; 39--43
was total confusion.
Three police cars with swirling blue lights were parked at the
church entryway; teenagers from Presbyterian churches citywide
were trooping into the building with their teddy bears and pillows
for a lock-in; from inside the chapel came the rhythmic crashing
of pots and pans.
First Presbyterian Church is a small, feisty congregation in
downtown Little Rock. We are proud of our heritage; founded in
1828, we claim to be the oldest Presbyterian church west of the
But the days when the city's wealthy and powerful citizens thronged
to fill our pews are long past. Now, government offices and parking
decks hem us in. Our most frequent daily visitors are the hungry
and thirsty wanderers described in Psalm 107. We welcome
them to the Stewpot for a hot meal five days a week.
On this particular night, though, it took a while to find
coherence in the chaos. Gradually, I began to understand that
this was all about where we were and who we were-our place and
One of the local nonprofit organizations that uses our building
on weekdays had issued dinner invitations to a group of about
50 migrant workers, who were making their way back to Florida
after holding a peaceful demonstration at a Taco Bell board meeting
in California. They were tomato pickers, and they were asking
the billion-dollar company to raise their $9,000-a-year wages
by increasing the price of a chalupa by one cent. Now they were
getting ready to march down Broadway, banging their pots and
pans. The press and the police were right behind.
I began to realize that this could only happen in a congregation
whose doors and hearts are wide open, turning echoing city canyons
into "an inhabited town" (v. 7). Our organist/chef
had fed the migrants a wonderful meal; our pots and pans were
put to use for a good purpose, and the youth got a lesson in
the realities of Christian witness in the inner city. Thank God
for a church that cares equally for teenagers and tomato pickers!
Lord, we thank you for your steadfast love. In the holy season
of Advent, help us to remember those who are "diminished
and brought low through oppression, trouble and sorrow"
Keep whispering your call to mission, even as we celebrate.
In the busy days ahead, remind us to share the gifts of place
and presence. Grant us the grace to open our homes and our hearts
to others who need us.
Anna H. Bedford is a PW Bible study moderator at First
Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, and a former Horizons
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