“Small Sightings of Love”
Nathan Rauh has just completed his first year of the MDiv program at Duke Divinity School and is interning this summer at Joseph’s House as part of the Center for Reconciliation’s Teaching Communities internship program. Joseph’s House, a hospice for homeless persons with AIDS and other critical illnesses, is one of the many unique and vibrant ministries of reconciliation that has been born out of the The Church of the Saviour, a network of twelve tiny house churches in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of metro D.C.
You never know what a day at Joseph’s House may bring. A resident sharing about her mending family relationships. A bad mood, a worsened condition, or lines of communication crossed. Kind words of reassurance and grace on a hectic morning. A naming session for the house’s newest rescued kitten. A poignant memorial service for those no longer with us.
There is a lot of love in this house. On the second day I was here, “Larry” offhandedly shared his fondness for strawberry shortcake while another volunteer and I were changing his sheets. My fellow volunteer quietly went downstairs to bake Larry shortcake from scratch and send another volunteer to fetch the berries. That’s just how things roll here. There is more than enough time and hands to do our best to love excessively. People speak truth, love hard, and laugh a lot. In the people around me, I am continually seeing lives formed in the ways of gentleness, tenderness, patience, and authenticity. I view being here and apprenticing myself to such lives as a vital continuation and deepening of my seminary education.
Oftentimes this education is far from easy. Joseph’s House sits precariously between life and death, each day trying to fully embrace both aspects of our humanity. I often feel off-balance in trying to maintain this balance. It is unsettling to be confronted with the inadequacy of our words and the clumsiness of our actions, to realize that we are dust and to dust we will return. But what is the process of becoming a theologian about, if not to teach us to recognize and live into our true neediness as beloved creatures of God?
As it is throughout The Church of the Saviour, life at Joseph’s House seems to be made up of many small sightings of Love. After weeks of training alongside amazing people, I am slowly learning to catch such sightings amidst the many daily oddities of life here. When I catch a glimpse, I give thanks to a God whose excessive Love shows up in smallness.
About the Author: Chris Rice is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.
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