Deep Chords in a Thin Faith

As a member of Sojourners Community, I make my home in Southern Columbia Heights—a place in which it's all too easy to miss seeing the beauty and courage that lie alongside the suffering of low-income families. I see people crowded, pushed one against the other. Children are often afraid, preoccupied with fears of violence. I feel a wave of despair each time another ambulance screams past my bedroom window on its way to the hospital.

Our neighbors struggle to make ends meet, and we are trying to stand with them. But gradually my faith has worn thinner and thinner. All the old expressions of praise and faith no longer seem to hold much meaning.

Yet into the midst of this hopelessness has come a weekly hour when an entirely different side of the neighborhood comes before me. On Monday evenings a few of us from Sojourners gather with some of our neighbors at our neighborhood ministry center. We sing and pray a little, but most of all we study scripture together. We have finished the book of James and now are on the Sermon on the Mount. We look into God's word and try to open ourselves to the hard but good things it says to us.

We listen and we talk. We ponder love, forgiveness, hypocrisy, hate and violence, money, and especially faith. The faith of these friends has been there for a long time, seemingly from generation to generation: grandmother to grandchild, mother to daughter, and friend to friend. It has endured through countless tragedies that I can never fully understand.

Shyly these occasions for faith are shared: a son in prison, a brother's death behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol, a grandson in the military stationed in Beirut, and the praise and thankfulness upon his return.

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