On December 1 and December 3, members of St. Philip’s Prison Ministry and a few loyal friends were blessed with an opportunity to share dinner and Eucharist with clients from three of the transitional homes of Old Pueblo Community Services.
Sharing a meal and conversation was an opportunity to learn more about the lives of men and women who are working so hard to overcome the mistakes of the past and to rejoin society in a productive way. Reaching out like this is intensely satisfying and gratifying.
For the Men’s “Advent-to-Go” Dinner and Eucharist, seven men from St. Philip’s joined over 30 residents of Bellevue House for a lasagna meal. It began with a warm welcome as the men arrived. Many took this opportunity to express their gratitude for our being there.
We served about 30 men. We had a chance to sit at table, share food and conversation, and get to know each other – just a little. It was a gift to get to know these men and to get a sense of our shared humanity, experiences and pleasures.
After dinner (and some rearrangement of the furniture), the Rev. Allen Breckenridge began “setting the table” for Eucharist. We began Eucharist with about five men, one staff, and seven of us from St. Philip’s. Fr. Allen explained the season (preparing and waiting) and made the “event” personal and relevant. We exchanged the sign of peace in hugs and handshakes, joined hands for the Lord’s Prayer and circulated a plate of communion hosts so that each received Eucharist from the person seated next to him. This intimate setting and sharing a meal and the sharing of Eucharist was a deeply meaningful evening for all of us from St. Philip’s. I have to believe it was significant to all.
We were assured that the cookies we left would be gone the next day — and much appreciated. I think that also the good will, camaraderie, and preparation for the Advent season will linger and have an effect on some who were there. I know its effects will linger with me.
On December 3, five women from St. Philip’s gathered with over 20 women from the Swan and Columbus residences of Old Pueblo Community Services.
As we gathered to set the tables and made last-minute preparations, the women chatted about their days and got to know each other. To add to the pleasure of the evening, one of the women came bounding through the door with joy sharing the news of her new job! To witness her excitement and pride and to see the happiness shared among the women was a delight for all of us.
The Rev. Vicki Hesse gathered everyone in a circle to share words of gratitude before we sat down for our meal. In recognition of the meaning of Advent, she encouraged us to share our thoughts about what it means to wait and to prepare. To hear these women’s stories, as we broke bread together, was both heartbreaking and uplifting. Their journeys have been painful, but their courage is amazing.
We cleared the tables and gathered to share in the Eucharist. Rev. Vicki shared some of the traditions of the Episcopal Church and encouraged each of the women to participate in whatever way each felt most comfortable. Sharing our most meaningful Eucharist around the table with so many beautiful women reminded us that we are neighbors. We are all beloved children of God. We may come from different backgrounds, but we all have hopes, wishes, dreams, goals, and the need for understanding, comfort, love, and support.
The courage and determination of our new friends put into perspective the reality of lives lived in a way that many of us can’t imagine. The dichotomy was striking and, yet, we all share so much of the same needs. Wondering how we can help these beautiful and brave men and women reach their goals became seeds that will grow in the days to come.
Participating were: the Rev. Allen Breckenridge, Chuck Converse, Steve Converse, Ray Dewey, Jim Prescott-Smith, Don Veitch, and John Waszczak; the Rev. Vicki Hesse, the Rev. Ruthie Hooper, Geri Smith, Eileen Veitch, and the Rev. Brigid Waszczak. Also supporting our evenings with prayers and food were Geri Ashworth, Richard Kuns, and John Smith. Throughout the planning and evenings, we were greatly supported, encouraged, and joined by Nancy Jones of Old Pueblo Community Services.
—Don and Eileen Veitch