LETTERS FROM OUR RECTOR, THE REV. JIMMY GRACE-
Fifteen years ago I left a job I had little interest in to search for what God was calling me to do. The job I left certainly wasn’t flashy, unless you consider a beginning level data entry job to be so (in that case, we might need to meet for pastoral counseling!) At this time in my life, the vocation to the priesthood seemed pretty clear to me, but I needed to find a place to explore it further.
It was on this occasion that I found myself walking into Lord of the Streets, an Episcopal ministry to the homeless in the midtown / downtown Houston area. I discovered Lord of the Streets (or LOTS as it is known by many in our Diocese) through another priest who suggested I explore the vocation of a priest amongst the homeless in our city.
I began volunteering there; helping to serve food, sort out prescription drugs, and various other odd jobs. I met Jesus there daily, in the conversations, prayers, and fellowship amongst many of the people who sought refuge, peace, and stability in this unique community. While volunteering there, I also had the privilege of meeting a friendly deacon, the Rev. Barbara Lewis. Barbara’s ministry at LOTS was characterized by warmth, compassion, sincerity, and love – traits that many of you all know well from her time as Rector of this parish.
When I look back on my time at Lord of the Streets, I do so with gratitude for the work they do on behalf of the homeless in our city. Each Sunday, Lord of the Streets holds services at nearby Trinity Episcopal Church in their nave. Afterward, a generous hot breakfast is served to the homeless in the adjoining parish hall. On average, 263 people attend services there every Sunday.
I am proud of the good work the Lord of the Streets continues to do. Their Vicar, the Rev. Bob Flick, once said that LOTS continues to befuddle national church statistics, as they consistently have a higher Sunday attendance than most Episcopal Churches nationwide, yet they usually receive very little in terms of a weekly offering.
Some months ago, I approached Bob about St. Andrew’s joining other local Houston Episcopal congregations in financially supporting their ministry. After some conversation, and with approval by the Vestry, St. Andrew’s this year will begin a relationship with LOTS in which we will contribute $3,000 annually to their operating budget. In addition, one of our parishioners will serve on their Bishop’s Committee (which is essentially a Vestry for a mission congregation of the Diocese of Texas). On select Sunday mornings during the year, St. Andrew’s will help prepare and serve breakfast to some of the neediest in our city. All of this will be in addition to our monthly clothing donations we are already providing to LOTS.
St. Andrew’s will still maintain our current relationship with the Heights Interfaith Food Pantry, and I am hopeful that in the future we will be able to solidify that relationship further as well.
It is in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25: 34 – 36). We are called by Jesus to serve the least of these, and our support of LOTS is one small way of doing that.
I am proud that St. Andrew’s is entering into this relationship with LOTS. And I am grateful for your generous stewardship, which positions St. Andrew’s in a place where we are able to offer tangible outreach in our city. If you have any questions about this ministry, or are interested in volunteering with LOTS, please let me know. God bless you this new year!