Much of our life together is unplanned and random. We do everyday-life kind of things with our friends: we go shopping; we clean the bathroom; we help people move; we celebrate birthdays. However, some of our life together happens in a more planned, rhythmic way. Here are the weekly and yearly rhythms that provide structure to our community.
Most of our team gatherings at Jacob’s Well either begin or end in a time of liturgy and prayer. We often use liturgies from the Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. We write our own liturgies for special times of the church year, like Advent, or for significant times in our neighbourhood, like welfare day. We also have a whole room in the back of our storefront space dedicated to prayer, and team members are invited to make use of it on a regular basis.
Once a week, many members of our community gather to plan, cook and clean up a meal together. A few of us go shopping at our local market to supplement what we receive from the food bank and then some of our friends from the neighbourhood come and help cook. We always put the coffee on early so that people can come in, and in no time the front room is usually packed with familiar faces, games of cards, and lots of laughter. It is a hallowed moment as we pause the whole operation for a minute or so of silence before we say grace and eat. About 30-40 neighbours and friends, unlikely companions, come together around five tables to eat in one another’s company. We eat family-style, and our meals certainly have both the deeply fulfilling and frustrating characteristics of family meals. Plenty of people stick around to finish up the dishes. We close the evening by praying for those we have talked with around the table.
Our team regularly delivers food to people who require assistance from the food bank but for a variety of reasons have trouble accessing it. We began doing this in partnership with an organization called Neighbourlink, a ministry of World Vision Canada, a number of years ago. When Neighbourlink shut down we simply continued our deliveries and have added more people as their years went on.
Each week we connect with various friends in the neighbourhood. These intentional times have become a consistent and significant relationship-building experience. We are given the chance to connect in real ways with people who might not otherwise have visitors. Sometimes an apartment will get cleaned. Someone might share a personal story about their past. We always try to find time to pray with and for one another. Visitation is an opportunity to be welcomed into people’s space and to be present with them in whatever space they find themselves.
Twice a week we gather together to worship God musically with our voices and our instruments. These times are integral to who we are as a community. We recognize that when we worship God together we experience His manifest presence. This brings healing and life to us and our neighbourhood. It is a time for intimate expression of our deep love for God.
On our weekday afternoon teams, we try to maintain a presence at the Jacob’s Well storefront so that we can show hospitality to friends who come to hang out, have coffee and chat with us. But several years ago, we decided to intentionally make coffee and baked goods and invite our friends to come join us once a week. We now have a faithful group of friends and neighbours who join us for Coffee Time, sharing snacks, playing cards, enjoying conversation, and playing music together. Once a month, this coffee time morphs into a Variety Show, where we have the pleasure of sharing our gifts and talents with one another.
One of our interns, Kat Callaghan, instituted a weekly Art Time at Jacob’s Well. She brought supplies and an idea, gave us the training we needed, and set us free to create. She would also end the time by inviting us to share things about our art, which often provided glimpses into each other’s thoughts and life experiences. When Kat left Vancouver to study Art Therapy, Yolanda carried on the mantle of Art Time.
Through our history, we have found various ways to connect with others who work in the neighbourhood. The first and longest-running way we did this was through Collegues’ Lunch, a weekly gathering where we ate with others who work in the DTES and prayed for one another. We shared struggles and supported one another, all of us aware of the high burnout rate of staff in the area. We aren’t as intentional about gathering colleagues together for this lunch at this point in our community history, but we still welcome anyone who works in the DTES is to bring their lunches and join us on Wednesdays at noon.
Once a month a lively, creative variety hour takes over the store front. Friends are encouraged to play a tune, sing a song, read a poem etc. We love seeing the variety of talent that walks through the door. Check out the great photos of variety hour by photographer Marion Luttenberger here. You can also check out Marion’s other work at marion-luttenberger.squarespace.com.
To see less regular but equally important events click here