Bridge Ministry

I’m sick, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time today.  I do want you to know that the next Bridge Ministry Day is Saturday, January 21.

Don’t know what the Bridge Ministry is?  It’s a ministry started by Christine Maentz and her husband, Scott, a deacon for the Diocese of Knoxville.  On one Saturday of the month, they arrange hygiene kits and food and pass them out to the homeless under the bridge on Broadway, just north of Western Ave.  You can read about it below.  This is a copy of the article I wrote about the Bridge Ministry for the Knoxville News Sentinel in November.

If you want to help, show up at the Knights of Columbus hall at 5710 Kingston Pike in Bearden at 9:15AM.  They put together the hygiene kits there and make loads of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  From there, they head downtown to pass it all out.  They’re usually done by 11:30.  It’s a good way to serve people in true need.

“In the first centuries of Christianity the hungry were fed at a personal sacrifice, the naked were clothed at a personal sacrifice, the homeless were sheltered at a personal sacrifice. And because the poor were fed, clothed and sheltered at a personal sacrifice, the pagans used to say about the Christians ‘See how they love each other.’

“In our own day the poor are no longer fed, clothed and sheltered at a personal sacrifice, but at the expense of the taxpayers. And because the poor are no longer fed, clothed and sheltered the pagans say about the Christians ‘See how they pass the buck.’”

                                    Feeding the Poor at a Sacrifice, by Peter Maurin (1877-1949)

            Peter Maurin was a Catholic philosopher in the tradition of Christian personalism. He, along with Dorothy Day, founded the Catholic Worker movement, which today is represented by over 200 houses of hospitality that offer food, clothing and shelter to the poor. Not willing to wait for the government or church to organize official relief efforts, Maurin believed that it was the personal responsibility of Christians to commit themselves to serving those in need by way of personal sacrifice through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Maurin pointed to St. Francis of Assisi as the inspiration for Christian personalism. Today, another Francis is inspiring many with his message that the Church is a field hospital for the wounded, and that Christians must leave the confines of the church building and, “go outside and look for people where they live, where they suffer, and where they hope.”

            Christine Maentz saw a need last December. She was concerned that the poor who often gather under the bridge at Broadway and Magnolia would have nothing to eat on Christmas. She convinced her husband, Scott, to make dozens of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with her and take them downtown. They passed them out to the homeless under the bridge, while a rainstorm poured down around them. Christine and Scott have been back every month since, now bringing bunches of friends with them along with items of clothing and hygiene packs, in what they call their Bridge Ministry. It’s an example of Christian personalism. The Maentz’ didn’t ask permission from their pastor or the City Council. The money spent in the effort was their own. They saw the need, took personal responsibility and made a personal sacrifice to meet it. Will it solve all the problems of the homeless? No. Will it feed every hungry person in the city? No. But, it’s a drop.

            A journalist once asked Mother Teresa, “Mother, all that you do here amounts to nothing more than a drop in the bucket. Why do you bother?” Mother replied, “It’s a drop.” The question to ask, I think, isn’t, “Why bother?” The question to ask is, “Where are all the other drops? Why isn’t that bucket full yet? Where’s your drop? Where’s mine?”

            Christine and Scott Maentz, and the others who now join them, offer their drops. They would like to eventually expand the Bridge Ministry to every Saturday. But, that will require more people willing to offer their drops. There are other needs in the city waiting to be filled, waiting for others to offer their drops. The bucket is very large. But, each drop is one more drop toward filling that bucket. Perhaps another rainstorm can be started. It all begins with one person taking personal responsibility and making a personal sacrifice. So, what’s your Saturday look like?

            If you would like to help the Christine and Scott continue or even expand the Bridge Ministry, you can contact Scott at deaconscott@deaconscott.com.

Be Christ for all.  Bring Christ to all.  See Christ in all.

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