(Still) Making God’s Love Visible in Downtown Memphis

by Christine Todd


So many people tell me they don’t believe in social media. I get it. People will know your life’s details. Some people say they look at Facebook but never post. Well, I get it because it does put you “out there.” I will tell you, though, during this time of isolation and distance, social media has opened up worlds for me. I’ve been reading a lot about corporate worship for our Wednesday night Education for Ministry class. The idea that we can virtually be there for each other is truly God’s work. In outreach at Calvary, Facebook has made some miracles, too.


Our mission of making God’s love visible in downtown Memphis is still going strong—both for our parish and for our neighbors. Morning prayer and compline have been centering reminders of God’s love and the Facebook messages hearts and thumbs up during the services remind us that we’re all in this together. For outreach, I must admit I’ve been really concerned about our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Every time I heard the words “shelter in place” or “stay at home” I flinched, knowing full well these neighbors have no home or shelter. Room in the Inn, Manna House, and more services closed. The good news though is we work closely with the Hospitality Hub and with Jarad Bingham. They arranged for a downtown hotel to provide single women experiencing homelessness with temporary shelter, Room in the Inn congregations organized meals (our own Parish Chef Mary O’Brien has been preparing many dinners). On Facebook, we put out a call for loungewear, sleepwear, puzzles, knitting needles, decks of cards for Solitaire, and books. Donations from our parishioners and Calvary friends from all over town answered the need. People who are truly housebound ordered from Amazon. The staff at the Hospitality Hub has been working 24-hour shifts to assure the women are safe and self-isolating.


In addition to working with the sheltered women, Calvary has an incredible group of volunteers who maintain social distance, but also serve more than 150 neighbors a warm to-go breakfast and coffee. Since there’s nowhere open downtown for a restroom, we have put a Porta John in our staff parking lot. One Sunday morning, 50 people stood in line to get toiletries, blankets, and a change of clothes. The Rev. Paul McLain was really good at texting orders to Jill Piper, Sandy West, and Sam Morris who filled them with love for each person. Richard Hendricks led five volunteers in our large kitchen to create those warm nutritious breakfast bags and hot coffee. Our guests filed through while maintaining distance and told each of us how much they appreciated not being forgotten. The look of worry goes away when someone is housed, served food, or given their favorite color and the right size T-shirt.


If you’re not on Facebook, you may not know of the group, Calvary Works. I would love for you to sign up and join us, even if you don’t want to post anything. You will see the faces of Calvary, each of those for whom I am so grateful.


Do you have a story or reflection to share about your life in this exceptional time? Email it to Director of Communications Robyn Banks