We just wanted to be a presence. ... We wanted to go into the marketplace, into people's midst. We weren't trying to convert anyone. We didn't want to sell anything. We just wanted to bring welcome and hospitality. Just come in and have a cup of coffee.It is great to see this kind of incarnational ministry during this holy season.
At the start of this Advent season, I noted some alternative Advent efforts designed to take the sacred time out of the sanctuaries and into the streets. One of those efforts was the Advent Chapel in a Montreal mall. The New York Times reported this weekend about a new, similar effort by some Franciscan friars in a shopping mall in Ohio. The friars are occupying a space in the mall to provide a sacred space for people in the midst of the craziness of the shopping. They set up the space on Black Friday - which the brown-robbed friars jokingly renamed "Brown Friday" - and will stay through Christmas Eve. People can come in for silent reflection, to talk and pray with a friar, or to write down their prayer request for the friars to pray over later. Reverend Jeffrey J. Scheeler, one of those manning the space, described the effort this way: