I recently graduated from George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University with the Master of Divinity degree. Throughout seminary, I worked as the Minister of Youth and Mission at wonderful little church in Waco, Texas called DaySpring Baptist Church. Today, I find myself sitting in a 9-bedroom house in the Five Points neighborhood in Denver Colorado. I presently share the house with fourteen other people. Three of those other people are “live-in workers” like myself. One of those is my wife, Kaylanne Chandler.
The four of us volunteers live life together as friends and have decided to share our spare bedrooms with Denver’s homeless population. At least that is the way that we describe our life and work here at the Worker House—as organically as possible. We didn’t just recently decide to do this, of course. The Catholic Worker movement began in New York City under the leadership of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933, and the Denver house began under the leadership of the Loretto Community thirty-six years ago. Presently, ten homeless folks are living under our roof. Our roommates include a young mother and father and their three young children, an older married couple, two single women, and one single man.
We offer our guests food and shelter, but most importantly we offer them friendship, which is most fully realized each evening when we sit down to dinner together at an ordinary dinner table that suddenly transforms into a divinely laden banquet table that is truly a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.
But what am I doing here? I get asked this question all the time. I ask myself this question all the time. I’m sure some of my professors at Truett, and some of my congregants at DaySpring wondered what I was thinking when Kaylanne and I began to share the news of our new calling in December. It is a good question indeed. “What is a good Baptist Seminary graduate doing in a Catholic Worker House?”
The only answer that seems to make sense to me comes from the wisdom that the author of John alludes to when he narrates that old story where Jesus commands the disciples to cast their net on the other side of the boat. The command makes no sense to the disciples. They have been laboring away all night and haven’t caught a thing, and Jesus tells them to try one more time.
Or maybe he tells them to stop trying so hard all together.
In the least, he tells them to try something a little bit differently.
In obedience, the disciples follow his command, and the text reads, “They were not able to haul it in [the net] because there were so many fish.”
The best “next step” for me following my seminary graduation would have been to secure some job as an associate pastor in some wealthy church somewhere so that I could continue the path towards a successful career in ministry. For all practical purposes, I did everything that I could have done throughout seminary to ensure that I would take that step towards success. I had a great job at a great church; I worked hard at my studies; and developed quality relationships with my professors.
Yet, as graduation approached, instead of finding a God who was calling me to meet Him on the top of the mountain of a successful career move, I found a God who had humbled Himself so much so as to take on the very nature of a servant, and put on human flesh, and stand beside the sea so as to instruct me to cast my net on the other side of the boat.
“Stop trying so hard, or in the least, try something a little bit differently,” He said.
And so I am, or so we are. Kaylanne and I, here together. A couple of good Baptists sharing our lives with Catholics and non-religious, with rich and poor, black and white, educated and uneducated, abled mind and bodied and physically and mentally impaired.
And only a couple of months into this experiment in obedience, we are finding the nets to be so very full—full with the healing of our guests, perhaps—but most certainly full of our own salvation.