Sandy had kind eyes, a black leather jacket, large eyes, several rings in each ear, and few in her nose. She was confident and kind. I met her at Central Presbyterian Church, at a BBQ on the front steps. I noticed Sandy for what she was doing. She wasn’t standing in line, waiting for the street vendor-style ‘dogs to be ready. She was kneeling down beside one of the two, large, stone potters by each pillar.
Someone had put in some beautiful, yellow and fascia tulips. It had rained hard all day though, and they were beat down, their stems and petals lying in the soil. Sandy had her hands in the pot, pushing the tulips down deeper, so they had enough soil to stand straight. She carefully did the same with the other side. Always looking to plug people into ministries they love, I went over to talk to this potential church gardener. One more volunteer. Victory.
I asked Sandy about the winter. Had been long. Just like everyone’s at the church, and in this city. Long and cold. We talked about Hamilton, about the bus service, about the living options, and community housing, about the cost of apartments, about heat and about electricity bills. It was the first day in a month comfortable enough to stand outside with no coat. A heavenly breeze of 14C, blew. I said how nice it was to feel that. She said, “yes, it was a cold winter.” “And a wet one.” I asked what she meant. Sandy went on to explain that in Hamilton, in the winter, downtown, when there is snow in melt, your feet get cold and worse, wet – cold and wet, if you don’t have a good pair of boots. She said she didn’t this year.
It reminded me of day, being a very cool grade 7 kid in the Ottawa Valley, refusing to wear a winter coat or boots to school one day. Playing outside in the slush in my shoes, and how miserable, cold and wet my feet were all day. Soaked cold.
So I asked Sandy, “do a lot of people in Hamilton not a have a good pair of boots for the winter?” She explained that good boots – warm and dry ones – are hard to get each winter.
And this made me wonder. What does it mean for me to a Christian in Hamilton, driving a good car, wearing a goose-down coat, and never really needing to walk anywhere in the new boots I can afford, in any case; what does it mean for me to be a pastor in a city if others have cold, wet feet all winter, and mine are warm? What does that mean to be part of a church?
Well, if Sandy’s experience is wide in our city, and this is a need, I thought that day – of a church that specialized in boots. Boots for women. Boots for men. Boots for children, who need them. Boots for newcomers to the city. Boots for people. And for a church to give them away, with joy.
What if we made everything – everything – in the church, about mission? What if, along side our signs for worship and programs and special events, we had a sign on our sidewalk. Need boots? Come in. All welcome.
I think that would be pure joy.