Reflections on the Peace Festival in Williams Park

LUCC sponsored a “free” table at the “Disturbing the Peace Festival” in Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg on Sunday August 20. Williams Park is known for being a comfortable green space where homeless people gather. The Festival included a focus on the inequities in society and increasing the compassion of our community. There were about 10 organizations with booths at the Festival. The day included a steady stream of music, poetry, and speeches calling for a more peaceful and just world.

The church had a tent and four tables covered with donated goods from the congregation. There were clothes, household items, and books. Lots of books! Many thanks to the congregation for the many donations. At the end of the day, just three small boxes of books and a few items of clothing were left. Those were donated to a thrift store.

The booth was staffed by several volunteers from the church. Here are their reflections on the experience last Sunday:

From Bob Bell

When we were setting up I was wondering what we going to do with all those books. To my surprise they were a very popular item.  Thought about it and for some of the people in the park their time is not spent watching big screen T.V.’s sitting in an air-conditioned house.  Some spend day and night there. (It’s home.)  Perhaps books are a welcome retreat from the daily effort to make the most out of what little they possess.  When I was able to tell people looking at the items on our booth’s tables and say to them, “Yes, it’s free, take all you want,” I realized just how much our church and all the other groups set-up there in the park do to serve and help those with less.  It was a day of peace, love and caring in the park.  Especially good way for me personally to spend a Sunday afternoon.  I needed that!

From Yoko Nogami

Hello Kim,
I want to thank you for the opportunity you have created for us to serve at the LUCC table for the Peace Festival.  I have now remembered why these things are so important to all of us.  As in the sermon you gave, love all sides of everything, without being in personal contact with a group of people who you are not associated with, you only have a “notion” of who these people are.  I learned this long time ago when I worked with people with disabilities at Creative Clay.  I jumped into a world I knew nothing about, the only common denominator being art.  Would I have ever imagined that this population could teach me more than I could teach them.  While I have worked with economically less privileged group and spent time with homeless folks at Williams Park on 2 art projects before, I had forgotten the spirit of love support and community they have for each other.  Some are incredibly educated and sober.  Just hit super bad times.

As soon as we started to set up, people were flocking, not just to receive things from us but to help set up and bring things from the car.  People spoke so honestly, when you are in such situations, we become humble and honest, much less pretense.  So many books I did not expect that they would want, people were not only hungry for food but for knowledge and growth.  Why would I think otherwise?  These are all good things for self reflections and my own prejudices I did not realize I had.  Aside from the people experience, the heat!  People are enduring this weather daily without shelter and air conditioning!  We are wimps!  So many stories and so much to learn from one another.

As a teacher, these are the places I felt I needed my students to come and experience.  Like you told Angela, if everyone had one day to spend in the crazy Florida heat, or one homeless folk as their friend, we could all be compassionate and empathize with others not from your neighborhood or kin.  There is less room for hate or ignorance.

And as a church located so remotely from the urban situation, we have to go to these things and not wait for things to come to us.

That’s my take.  And God willing I will find time somewhere to make it all fit.  Lol.

From Patti Cooksey

Like Yoko, I was extremely impressed to see so many drawn to the collection of books and to receive them as gifts.  As a teacher, this was a humbling and inspiring experience as I thought of all the needs that are not available to some of those who visited our table.  I sensed peace in their hearts as we shared our presence and gifts of love.  I think we also need to recognize how our church family can quickly respond to opportunities that provide love and support in our community.  Lastly I think we should be grateful to have a strong pastor who not only has the strength and passion to plan and take on such projects, but who also has the strength to tackle assembling large tents and transport heavy boxes of books!

From Denise Williams

I’m so glad I was able to be a small part of the peace festival.  The most wonderful thing for me was all the smiles surrounding our tent. I loved saying “everything is free” – just like the love of Jesus – no strings attached.  It was a pleasure, heat and all, to share love and laughter with one another.  I was humbled to see the joy our presence made in the day of our sisters and brothers.  I hope our tent visitors realized how much joy we received from them as well. I look forward to other events where LUCC folk can share their multitude of blessings – for free, once again…

From Emily Bell

I, too, thank Pastor Kim and Lakewood for the precious opportunity at William’s Park on Sunday afternoon.

A story I am left with involves a man who showed up from the park and began helping to arrange books on one of Lakewood’s “free tables.”

It happened to be the table where I was starting to unload books.  We said “hello” and began to work together.  No more words were spoken.  I wish I could tell you his name and something about his journey.  I cannot emphasize enough how carefully he handled each book.  At some point I decided to leave that table and move to a different table to unload household items.  The man’s presence captured my attention.  It soon became clear to me that he was an artist building a display of treasures.  Silence surrounded him.  He arranged and rearranged.  He was lost in his art. Nothing distracted him.

As I reflect on this man and the books I realize that his artistry reminded me of a sacred altar where the elements are handled with love, care and respect.

This was indeed holy ground.  At this “free table” I was nourished and taught.
God was here.
It was REAL!

 

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