This year, we celebrated God’s wild, moving, living Spirit with shoes all around us on Pentecost Sunday. One of our partners, the Rare Breed drop in center, invited us to return this year with the Converse shoe project which we had enacted during the Lenten season last year. Teens at the Breed go to the center for various reasons: some teens are street dependent; others need access to resources such as GED classes or medical help; some need a quiet place they can be themselves; and 40% of the teens especially need to know they are loved after being kicked out of their homes when they came out to their parents as LGBTQ+.
We went to the Breed and took shoe orders on three separate evenings. Teens were given an opportunity to choose the color and type of shoe they wanted, as well as give us the size they needed. We asked for two choices and explained to the teens that we would work hard to find their shoes. On the third night, we had collected orders for 90 pairs of shoes.
Our community of faith at National Avenue Christian Church was invited to make donations to purchase shoes. Each pair cost approximately $40.00 and we also invited community members to purchase the shoes in honor of a person who had guided them in their understanding of faith and exemplified the Spirit of the Church. Funds were also raised in other ways – one of our favorite pie makers Benny Ellis, a retired teacher, baked custom-made pies offered with over five delicious toppings. The $10.00 fee charged for each pie, allowed Benny to make a sizeable donation towards the purchase of shoes.
As part of our celebration of the church, we blessed the shoes on Pentecost morning in worship. During the Children’s Conversation, our children took boxes of shoes into the congregation so that everyone could have the opportunity to be part of the blessing. Those in attendance that morning were asked to look at the name of the teen who would be receiving the shoes written on the box. As they held the shoes during worship, they were invited to pray for the teen and the feet that would be wearing these shoes later in the week.
Following worship, the congregation was invited to come into our Gallery and write a note of love and support for their teen and then, place that note in the box along with a new pair of socks and place a colorful ribbon around these wonderful new shoes. It was amazing to watch how joyfully these tasks were carried out.
Beginning that day, and in the week following, we heard so many stories of how members of our faith community felt they had been blessed by the opportunity to pray for the feet that would be wearing these shoes. There was a realization that it is one thing to talk about Street Dependent teens as a group of young people, and an entirely different feeling to pray for one individual young person who lives on the street day-in and day-out.
As we listened for the Spirit through the liturgy, music, and message that day, we were reminded that we are constantly being swept out of the Church to love and care for a world that is waiting for the marvelous Good News of the Gospel. And we felt certain that the Spirit walking around among us on this Pentecost Sunday – was wearing a pair of pink Chuck Taylors and celebrating with all of us.
story and photos courtesy of National Avenue CC's Rev. Jenn Simmons