A COHI STORY
PORTER AT THE DOOR
by Debra Cady | COHI | Grace Episcopal Church, Kirkwood, MO
Knock, knock. “Who’s there?” said the novice. The teacher bowed his head and shook it slightly while saying, “Try it again, this time with your Benedictine spirit.” Knock, knock. “Welcome, you are a blessing to us. How can we help?” The teacher smiled and told the novice to begin.
Over 1500 years ago, Benedict of Nursia founded a monastery outside of Rome. He crafted a document still used today, which is known as The Rule of Benedict. It is a rule of balance and wisdom which guides a community into spiritual living. This document, ancient as it is, still rings true today and is the framework in which the Community of Hope operates. Benedict believed that to live a spiritual life, one must live in community, for it is in community where we find the Christ in others.
Everyone has a job. No person's job is more important than another. It is a community of respect for one another, where each job is linked to the well-being of the other. Everyone works for the good of the community.
Recently, I was asked what exactly does the Community of Hope do? I was taken aback! What do you mean you don't know who we are? Puzzled and concerned, I turned to scripture and The Rule of Benedict. Reading the rule of Benedict, I think I found our answer. You see, one of the important roles assigned is the role of the porter at the door. He or she is to stay stationed at the door of the monastery to receive any visitor who may arrive (at any hour). Joan Chittister in her explanation of the Rule, “Answering the door is one of the arch activities of Benedictine life. The way we answer the door is the way we deal with the world.” Our response is to fling open the door and welcome the visitor, receiving the Christ in the other.
Community of Hope is an international community with over 1500 learning centers. The Episcopal Diocese has two learning centers training lay pastoral chaplains: Grace in Kirkwood and The Church of St. Michael & St. George. The training is intensive and trains lay chaplains in the ministry of presence. Members of other churches within our diocese along with other denominations take this training and are a part of our Care Circles. As with Benedictine life, there is the balance of work, study and worship. To distract and focus on only one aspect, does a disservice to the life of the community. Our ministries are as varied as the people in our community. Some have feeding ministries, some visit the sick or infirm, some walk with people in their final hours in hospice. Still others visit prisons. There are others who have prayers services in nursing homes, or group homes. We even have a person who uses her talent of music to bring joy and uplift people in a nursing home. We can be Eucharistic ministers bringing Communion to those in hospital or our homebound. The only agenda we have is to relieve the suffering in the world with the gift of our presence. We daily practice being the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
Our presence and our training allows us to have no agenda but to serve the Christ in others. We often are the only contact to our care receiver has who has no agenda, to only be there for this person, fully present and listening to whatever the care receiver has to say. This is where the balances of worship and study help correct us. We are reminded to be humble, this is God’s work, and we are lucky enough to be the hands and feet of Christ.
As I wrote earlier, we are the Community of Hope, but we do not live in a monastery. Ours is a monastery without walls. Because we live amongst you, we have no physical door; ours is a door of spirit. We must each become the porter at the door. We welcome you as Christ welcomes you!
Below are COHI testimonials from two of our church centers. This page is a great link to use to promote the valuable work we do.
We've also included a video from Bishop Sumani, an Episcopal Bishop from Malawi who's trying to grow our ministry throughout his country.
COHI Center at St. Cuthbert Episcopal Church, Houston, TX
COHI Center at St. James United Methodist Church | Little Rock, Arkansas