Peace of Pizza, Taste of Heaven
As a relative newcomer to St Stephen’s, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Peace of Pizza. It was more than I hoped it would be!
One of the Bible’s favorite images for the Kingdom of Heaven or the Day of Salvation is a giant feast to which everyone is invited, where the food is delicious and ample, and feelings of contentment and good will fill the air. Our driveway must have been one of the most welcoming heaven-like places in the city on Friday afternoon. People from every walk of life found their way to the banquet: families with children, people traveling alone in the world, couples and friend-groups; regular visitors to our food pantry as well as regular pantry volunteers and well-heeled pantry donors; friends from neighboring congregations, friends from Peace Week Delaware and Pacem in Terris, people just passing by—and all of this glorious diversity, representing the multi-faceted magnificence of the image of God alive in our city, sitting down at tables to break pizza crusts together and enjoy a beautiful autumn evening outdoors. One guest said that the linen tablecloths and mums and pumpkin centerpieces made him feel as though he’d been invited into someone’s home. Our pizza came from Gianni’s in Trolley Square, and the driver who delivered pizza all night vowed to manage his schedule so that he could be our delivery-man next year too, he so enjoyed being part of the evening. This is exactly what church is supposed to be like!
In the middle of all of that, there were smaller, quieter moments where God’s presence was almost palpable. Two of our guests were a young couple, newly arrived from Ukraine. They are living with a family member somewhere in the city. Between the two of them, they spoke no English. But miraculously, another guest spoke enough German to be able to converse with them and hear the basics of their story. As much as I would have liked to have been the one able to offer words of welcome and hospitality, it is humbling to realize God provided someone with the language skills needed in that moment. I hope that young couple felt safe and secure, able to enjoy a brief respite from whatever challenges they have endured. Isn’t it amazing what a piece of pizza in a church driveway can represent?
If you stayed long enough to enjoy the piano concert offered by students from Cab Calloway School of the Arts, I’m sure you came away with the same feelings of gratitude and hopefulness that I experienced. Was God not present in the courage of the youngest students stepping up to play, in the accomplishment of the older students, in the support and pride of their parents and grandparents, and in the delight of their teacher? Yes, of course, God was present in all of that!
We, like people of every generation before us, live in challenging times. But God is with us and shows up, as always, in the simplest and most ordinary of human experiences. Thanks be to God, for the blessings of peace and a pizza dinner shared with our neighbors.