“Yeah, you’re kinda scrappy,” the voice boomed over me as I faked an injury from a hand shake that was, in all reality, more firm than normal. As our laughter subsided, this young gentleman began to tell me about his promise as a college basketball player, his struggle with academic expectations and his current job prospects. His story was filled with adversity while demonstrating a resilience needed for daily life in housing instability. “Alright preacher, you keep on keepin’” enveloped me as our bodies leaned in and embraced. Continuing my greeting of guests escaping from Raleigh summer, I noticed the young man had not left, and I watched him move about the room pouring coffee for a woman whose hands prevented her from holding a cup steady; I heard him offer soft words of encouragement to another young man heavy ladened with street life; and I saw him rub the head of a small infant before offering a small kiss to the baby’s forehead. I couldn’t help but think, “No, you keep on keepin’.”
The Round Table at Pullen is host to many similar scenarios as we feed people experiencing various stages of adversity in our community. Guests are welcomed and provided a meal, a snack packet of food to take as they leave, and a low-cost bus ticket subsidized by the congregation. Volunteers spend countless hours preparing snack packets, picking up food from local vendors, cooking, and cleaning so Tuesday and Thursday can provide respite and care for lives so often denied such solace. The summer heat has seen an increase in our Round Table guests with as many as 80 to 90 attendees. Regardless of the heat, there is ample food and an abundance of people caring about other people.
When I bare witness to such events I am reminded of Genesis 4 dialogue between Yahweh and Cain. Fueled by greed, Cain commits an unfathomable murder and then arrogantly asks the Divine Counselor, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Not to be outsmarted, Yahweh retorts with a poignant question, “What have you done?” There is silence. At Pullen, we answer this call daily as we strive to serve compassion, love, peace and justice into our congregation, our local community, our state and our world. These are our light-giving prayers that embody the work of our hands, and this is the soul food that breaks forth from our communion tables and feeds the world.
During my first week at Pullen, I have been around many tables, some of them are square. The shape is really insignificant as what occurs around the table is no less than beautiful. The Round Table gathers people from all walks of life around a table to serve compassion and care. The Support Circle gathers Jewish, Hindu, Catholic and Protestant people around the table to work for the life stability of single women. The house table covered with lovely food united our young people committed to registering communities to vote. The Lectionary Table gathers a variety of people committed to living their faith inspired by the Hebrew Scripture and New Testament. The miracle of these tables is that there is always room for more, and I personally invite you to join me in some aspect of Pullen’s work. There will always be hands to shake and smiles to give; there will be envelopes to stuff or forms to highlight; there will be food pick-up routes to drive; there will be seats to fill at city council meetings; and there will be all of us serving compassion, love, justice and light. And, when we continually hear the Divine Provocateur ask, “What have you done?” then together, we can answer, “We just keep on keepin’.”