The Gift of Interruptions and Homelessness

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We post below the latest musings from Christine Havens on last month’s Parable, The Front Porch’s Pub Church at Scholz Garten.

foundation communitiesADVENT, INTERRUPTED.  Don’t we love it when things come together? Maybe I should better say full circle, or come back around, though I really do not speak of an ending. Maybe a spiral works as a more apt image, but no, that’s not quite right either. I doodle spirals on a page, admiring how smoothly the line flows—I can draw one with no glaring hiccups, no lifting of the pencil off the page, as long as I’m not interrupted. And that’s the key, isn’t it? Do you envy the flow of a spiral on the page? Do you hope for a day or a life similar to that lovely, gently circling line on the paper?

You may find yourself instead having a less than smooth day, as in the story Fr. Steve Kinney told as introduction to Parable on December 14—he’d had an upheaval-ous day of sorts when unexpectedly having to help his daughter, who herself was suffering from the interruption of a feral cat bite. “The whole day was shot,” for both of them. No smooth spiral day; instead, an engendering of frustration.

And all I could do was smile, as Steve spoke of interruptions “as God’s way of getting in” and as he “invited us to be interrupted” with each other in the Parable space. His words took me back to my time as a parish secretary, which was my first true experience of church, Episcopal or otherwise—the beginning of an important stage in my life. My boss, Fr. Mitch, had developed a “theology of interruption” because of all the, well, interruptions in parish office life—rarely did we have an easily drawn spiral day. Mitch’s thought was that most of these breaks, disruptions, stoppages, intervals were Spirit-driven.

Steve’s story serves as an example of a big interruption, but what of those smaller interruptions? What about our drives around Austin—we’re on the way to work or home from work, or off to the mall or running errands and we just want a smooth spiral or circuit or circle. We had a good day and we want to keep that feeling of success or accomplishment. And then—we’re idling at a stoplight, listening to music that we’re enjoying, and a homeless person breaks into our consciousness, standing at the corner with a brown cardboard sign, or even worse, heading over with a squeegee to wash our car window whether we want them to or not—jolting us into frustration quite frequently or shame or sorrow or pity or desire to help. Whatever the feeling provoked, we’ve been interrupted.

Our guest this evening—midway through Advent—was Walter Moreau of the Austin nonprofit, Foundation Communities, the most lauded affordable housing in the country, as John Burnett said as he introduced Walter. The newly built Capital Studios on 11th & Trinity is the first affordable housing in downtown Austin in 45 years! In a city, where sometimes 4,000 “rough sleepers,” to use the British euphemism (the British also gave us the euphemisms “white meat” and “dark meat” as the Victorians couldn’t use “breast” or “leg” to even describe food), are living their interrupted lives, the Foundation Communities serves as a stepping stone for many. Walter brought Leslie Davis, a single mother, who broke into our lives and hearts with her experience in life and how Foundation Communities is helping her with the big interruption in her life—her husband, a drug dealer, whose murder left her homeless.

I could spiral on and on, talking of the evening, but I need to break in on my musings. I am way past my deadline. . .

Just one last thought: perhaps it’s that our lives are really a series of interruptions—dots on a page, so closely placed together that they’re indiscernible as anything but a line as we journey. Just sometimes the Holy Spirit breaks through and things come together.