March 24, 2008

Foot-washing and other Humble Service
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Community Life Fellowship, the group that rents our church for their Saturday evening worship services, has a Holy Week tradition that has not previously been part of my experience. On Maundy Thursday they have a service that involves foot-washing. This is done in the context of reading from John’s Gospel, chapter 13, and participating in Communion at the Lord’s Table.

I attended this service a few years ago, and I remember it as a novelty that didn’t seem particularly edifying. This year I decided to try it again, and I had a completely different experience. Partly, this was due to a conversation with a young man who shared his early boyhood memories of the dawning of his faith during participation in services like this. Partly, it grew out of a conversation with Peter Larson, as we partnered in washing each other’s feet.

But I was particularly impressed with the meditation brought by the Community Life Fellowship pastor Eric Shaw. He pointed out that the Last Supper and the foot-washing together express the power of Jesus in and through us. The Last Supper reminds us of how far he would go to save us from our sins and to guarantee us eternal life. The foot-washing shows that his redemptive power is manifest in our earthly life, right now, not just in our eternal life. The humble servanthood we express in humble, loving acts (like washing another person’s feet) is a demonstration of what Jesus did for every spiritually needy person through his death.

The people of Altadena Baptist Church do many caring things in the name of Jesus. One of them is described in the following report. This is our way of “washing feetâ€? to show people around us that Jesus lives in and through us.

Report on the Bad Weather Shelter Season
by Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

Altadena Baptist Church volunteers completed our 20th year of service to the homeless of Pasadena/Altadena in helping to staff the Bad Weather Shelter. It was a year of big changes for us. Our long-time coordinator of over a decade, Clayton Smith, stepped down, and our head cook, Paula McCall was able to cook for us only once because of health concerns.  Also, our Union Station partners for several years, Rich Lindgren and his daughter, did not return.  These four faithful volunteers were sorely missed! So it was a year of changes as we re-configured.

New coordinator:  Laura Van Alstine, also part of the backbone of volunteers for the past several years, stepped up to coordinate the volunteer help.

Volunteers:  We were very short on help the first time we served. The permanent staff of the Shelter said, “Never have we had so few people work so hard for such a large crowd.  You did a great job!â€?  Our volunteers had a workout that night!  So we began to look for help in different areas. This year we used youth more than ever, and we needed them! Minors comprised more than half our team each time we served, and we needed their strength and energy to get the job done. We solicited “friendsâ€? of ABC, people who don’t attend church, but to whom we are connected. When we did not have enough volunteers, we buttonholed ABCers in the morning service.  Many came through for us even though they had not signed up. Many of our volunteers helped for the first time this year, because they were personally asked and very much needed.  We’ve found that most who volunteer really like working with this needy segment of our society.

We considered this a transition year, because this year’s volunteer situation was very rough on those who went down. Our coordinator described it as extremely stressful due to the lack of seasoned help to count on and feels it cannot continue this way next year without burning out the few, faithful, permanent volunteers we do have.  For next year we definitely know we need more adult help, as well as more consistent help both with the cooking duties and from volunteers who have the physical ability to assist with setting up cots and moving tables and chairs.

Food:  This year we solicited turkeys from the congregation to provide the meat for the main course. Seven turkeys fed 100-150 guests each of the four nights we provided a meal. This needed donation of meat allowed us to prepare large quantities of food without a heavy hit to our budget. Our menu (enchiladas, turkey veggie soup, rice & turkey casserole) got good reviews. We had enough for seconds, and guests piled it on. One staffer told us: “Our guests don’t complain, but they must get tired of the same menu over and over. Most often they are fed frozen lasagna. Your meals are a welcome change.â€?  The use of turkeys was a good change for us, and one we hope to continue next year.

As we close this season of service to the homeless of our area, we thank all those who physically set up, cooked food and served guests on the nights the Shelter was opened. And many thanks to those who couldn’t do the work on Sunday nights, but helped in valuable ways by purchasing our supplies, donating turkeys, cooking and preparing the turkeys in advance, and donating freezer space.