The Darby Mission meal this past Tuesday was a huge success. 110 people came together to enjoy a meal that we were honored to host. Many hotdogs and hamburgers were made and enjoyed along with all the fixings, including a batch of coleslaw that garnered high praise, and homemade cheesecake that was gone in a nanosecond. A big thank you to everyone who prepared or donated food, and who helped serve and clean up. And a huge thank you to Joe Zorc for organizing the meal and taking the lead on the grill.
The Darby Mission is an extraordinary ministry. As the name implies, it is rooted in a particular place: the Borough of Darby in Delaware County. The Mission part has to do with the fact that the ministry of the Rev. Doris Rajagopal is funded through the diocese, and that it is fundamentally about MISSION. It is about recognizing what God is up to in Darby and jumping on board.
Doris and her ministry partner, Jessica, are a dynamic force for good in that neighborhood. Those of you who have known Doris and been part of this work longer than I have can easily attest to that. In addition to the twice monthly meals, which are sponsored and hosted by various Episcopal congregations in the diocese, Doris and Jessica run an afterschool program that serves 115 students. They also run various innovative programs for youth, including a really great cooking class, and together with students from the Darby middle school and a local graffiti artist they have created two public murals. And they are always scheming, cooking up ideas that spread God’s love and peace in that neighborhood.
But, the Darby Mission is more than just programs: it is about a deep, abiding presence in a particular place. This presence through time imparts the love of Jesus and the grace and mercy of God through hundreds of tiny actions and conversations. All this, over the long haul, has a transformative effects on people’s lives that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. That is how the Holy Spirit operates: taking our small gifts and making them into something bigger and better than anything we could imagine.
That is why, even though we only have the privilege of hosting a meal every three to six months, Holy Apostles is committed to the Darby Mission for the long haul. We are one thread in a vast tapestry, an interconnected network of relationships that make the Darby Mission possible. For one thing, several folks from Holy Apostles—honoring the legacy of St. Faith—have been involved at the Darby Mission from the beginning and are involved not on a quarterly basis, but a weekly basis. And our involvement is morphing and evolving organically over time as we build relationships and come to better understand the needs and assets of the community. Here are two examples of this. We are beginning to help build a website for the Darby Mission, using the skills and talents we have combined with the amazing content they produce. Also, for awhile now, in addition to food, folks from Holy Apostles have been offering books to both children and adults who attend the community meal. This has been an enormous hit. It was great to see kids running around last night with new books tucked under their elbows.
I am still learning about the systemic challenges—as well as the beautiful resilience—of the many underserved neighborhoods that surround us in the Philadelphia metro area, but my hunch is that simple acts like ours which facilitate access to good books and bolster literacy are important.
Without any real coordination between us, other churches in our area such as St. Mary’s in Ardmore and St. Asaph’s in Bala Cynwyd have also begun to help gather and distribute books to folks who want and need them, in their case, into several Philadelphia schools. So, we’re just following where the Holy Spirit leads. As God reveals the ways God is moving, whether through food, or books, or conversation, God’s people are simply trying to follow God’s lead. Because whether it’s Penn Wynne or the borough of Darby; whether it’s your workplace, or home, or grocery store, or school, God is already there. God is already moving. God is already changing lives. That’s good news.
For more on the books, talk to Cassie Woestman or myself.