Not your normal Sunday School

At Capitol Hill UMC there is a quiet revolution going on. Successful, intelligent, affluent Washingtonians are meeting with those who wander the city’s streets without a home and for whom a used T-shirt and a meatloaf lunch is a gift. But this meeting is not about charity, or even mission. The group is studying the Bible together and learning about Christ from one another.

One morning in August, Tom, who spends many nights in his wheelchair on the church’s stoop, was lying on the cement, trying to get his socks on before attending Sunday School. One of the church members stooped to help him, while another went to fetch some water to wash away the excrement that another homeless overnight visitor had left on the church’s sidewalk behind some bushes.

Struggling to dress a confused man whose pain made him cry out and washing waste off the pavement, is hardly how most United Methodists begin Sunday School. At Capitol Hill, they meet needs first.

And, in these needs, they sometimes discover the presence of God.

During the Sunday School class, in a small chapel, a man named Lester sat down very close to me in a pew. As he leaned forward to rest his head, I noticed specks of blood and tiny red bugs on the back of his shirt. When Lester raised his head to share his thoughts on living a resurrection life, I didn’t understand some of the words he mumbled. But I did find myself caring intensely about what he thought about God.

In moments, through their relationships, that’s what the people at Capitol Hill teach you. It feels radical, a bit like a daring adventure, a leap of faith into an almost heretically bold way of being. But then, as coffee and conversation is shared, you realize it’s really just the Gospel being lived out. Amid mess and chaos, there is deep listening, and faith, and authentic love unfolding.

The writer G.K. Chesterton said, “There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.”

It’s this kind of miracle math that allows Jesus to feed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and some fish. It’s also what allows people – all the people — at Capitol Hill to live resurrection lives.


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