Last night we invited friends of George Street Church to an Open House. From late afternoon, into the night, friends dropped in to talk to us about “what’s next for George?”. It was a Who’s Who of Peterborough community activists. Social Service Providers, Greeners, Church Neighbours, Housing providers, Politicized Poor folks, Politicized Do-Gooders, Raging Grannies, an artist, a neighbor, an entrepreneur and a Mayor.
For me, it was kind of like George (if we can personify him) was suffering from a mid-life crises. No, let’s make that the crisis that arrives upon a retirement from a long and dedicated career. He’d invited his friends to come and help him figure out what’s next?
He wasn’t totally ready to give up what he’d been doing for so long. But he was being downsized. The culture had shifted and what he was selling was no longer in demand. How to retrofit, re-imagine, re-create himself?
His friends had many good things to say about him, his track record, and his reputation in the community. Progressive, intelligent, inclusive, accessible, compassionate. The kind words you’d want to hear spoken at your funeral.
One good, bold, friend shared their sadness that the bloom had come off the rose. He was no longer in his prime. But not dead yet.
Doors were opened. George would be welcomed at the anti-poverty round tables. He could roll up his sleeves and pitch in at the variety of community meals being served up. He could pick a cause and run with it; affordable housing, local food security, loving the unlovable, teaching the un-teachable, reaching the un-reachable.
George is no stranger to these tasks. He’s done his bit. Less than some, more than many.
Would George open up his large and beautiful home to his friends? He’s known for his hospitality – although lately the big rec room in the basement is underused. And the living room upstairs might as well have plastic on the couches – that only comes off Sunday mornings for the guests.
If for nothing else – the Open House reminded friends they were welcome to drop in and make themselves at home.
Amidst all these accolades and invitations, there was a hope expressed too. It came from different quarters and was expressed in different ways. There was a suggestion that maybe George shouldn’t entirely give up his day job.
The God-song that George had sung for so long was a note in the community’s chorus that his friends would miss. It wasn’t their note to sing, but they wanted – or needed – to hear it still.
In all the busy busy work of social change there was something about George’s place that his friends said provided peace, pause for thought, for a breath, for a soul to slow down and get fed, watered, rested, and re-inspired.
How might George’s lawn be transformed to create a garden where birds and bees and neighbours hungry for a turning over of topsoil might dwell. A place to plant seeds and watch the miracle of god’s greening grow to fruition. A place where we reclaim the lost art of canning and pickling and preserving that taste of summer for the long winter’s hunger.
Instead of rows of wooden pews, what about rows of beans and berries?
And I thought I heard, not overtly, but ever so gently a suggestion that maybe it was time for George to finally let Georgette out of the closet. That the straight and narrow rows he’d kept in place for so long might make room for his inner goddess to glow.
There was a just a hint of gentle coaxing to free his feminine muse. To explore his deepest intuitive self. To clear away the conforming constraints of his old profession and let a more ancient mystery loose within his walls.
Neighbours might come to share in such circles of freedom. Friends would come to sit in sacred circles. Strangers would join in sacred dances. Hurting ones would come to lie down and let go and let the healing happen in the presence of Georgette’s silent angels.
Might George explore the loss arts beneath the profession he’d practiced so long and so well? How might he re-connect with the divine inspiring source of expression? Like bees to honey, who wouldn’t want to come along and re-discover the art of living, of letting go, of beginning again, of making love with the world.
Good friends won’t tell you what to do. They trust you to make the right move. After you’ve given so much – they don’t make demands for more than you’ve got to give. They want only what’s best for you because they know that a happier healthier you makes way for change, growth, prosperity and peace. Good friends know that when we change, the world changes too.
thanks to Richard Choe for the photos