As I was leaving the fireside room during a Sanctuary drop-in, I almost ran head-on into Len. He was waiting for me, excited to show me the new boots he’d gotten that morning. “Check out my new boots, Debra! I’ve never had boots like this before… no holes, warm, leather… just in time for winter too.” His eyes gleamed as he held out one foot, then the other; he was happy to have them, but also happy to have someone to share his experience with. The boots were part of a generous donation of footwear from Talbot Street Church this past November.
For several years now, Sanctuary London and Talbot Street Church have lived out a partnership: two churches sharing one physical space, and learning how to love the poor and excluded together. While it isn’t always easy to know the best way, we have intentionally sought a direction of being ‘one’ in following Christ and his calling. Last October, Talbot Street Church embraced a sermon series called “Follow Me,” and imagined the reality of walking in Jesus’ footsteps—how to follow him in genuine ways, and go where he goes.
What does it mean to really follow him, especially when God calls two very different communities such as Sanctuary and Talbot, to follow him together? And when we are faced with community callings of mutuality, reciprocity, vulnerability, and togetherness, what better symbol of learning to walk together, than a communion table filled with donated shoes for Sanctuary London? As Pastor Steve shared, Jesus’ invitation to follow him means he believes in us that we can “live like him, love like him, forgive like him, be like him.” But how?
Living, loving, forgiving, and being like him also means stepping out of the boat—not an easy thing. When the rich and poor come together, we often have fears around starting relationships with people who seem so different from us, so ‘other.’ But God still calls us to walk on the water. When ordinary people come together with Christ’s love at the centre, extraordinary things happen.
I have been part of Sanctuary for four years now, but on the morning of the offering of shoes, I was playing piano as part of Talbot Street Worship. On either side of the communion table were two empty tables, covered in simple blue tablecloths and surrounded with a sense of anticipation. We accompanied communion with the song “Oceans.” As Leanna sang, her voice filled the church with beauty and love. And when I looked up momentarily from the piano, I was vaguely aware of the presence of a crowd coming up to the tables…
The lyrics of the song tore through my heart, like wind through leaves: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me…” I looked up, and suddenly realized that both tables were piled high with shoes and boots, and my heart ached with love. Not only were they being donated to our Sanctuary friends, who had walked hundreds of miles with nowhere to go and nowhere to belong, but the shoes also symbolized our desire to walk with those who are hurting, to love the poor, to trust without borders, to let faith take the lead.
When two communities come together, it means risking to open up a space of love. Sometimes it means saying “I don’t know how, but I want to.” It might mean walking into a Sanctuary meal drop-in and sitting down with someone to hear their story. The shoes our friends wear literally walk them through their darkest days, and what helps them most, is having someone to walk the journey with them and to meet them where they are—to ‘walk in their shoes’ with them.