We’re happy to welcome Pastor Gregg Jennings to Fredericksburg Today. You may have met Gregg ministering in town or through the schools. He’s going to write a column for us when the inspiration strikes him. We’re glad we’ve got him here in Fredericksburg. – Chris at Fred Today
From Gregg Jennings for Fredericksburg Today
On the night of December 21st 2017, I was running around Market Square with about 17 details swirling through my head. As the community had gathered to grieve, and give voice to the death of 18 of our most vulnerable neighbors, I was thinking about a lot of things. It was the night of the Homeless Persons’ Memorial and everything was about to begin.
The tents were in place with Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts stationed beside. The barrels were lit, and the community was beginning to file into the center of town. If you’ve ever been a part of a team planning something, than you know how I was feeling. Amidst all the details, I was trying to keep my spirit together in order not to miss the gravity of the moment for all the minutia of getting people in the right place.
Nevertheless, the night was a reminder of what is so beautiful about our city. It didn’t matter if you were homeless or a part of city council, a teacher, or a Girl Scout, we were all there for one thing, and that was to stand in solidarity with the those who had died this year and who were either homeless, or had been recently housed.
The songs, the prayers, and the eulogy by the Rabbi, were all so moving. One person on Facebook later commented, “this service was more emotional for me than my own grandmother’s funeral.” By the end of the night, there we stood, with candles lit, singing in the cold night air a kind of a promise of hospitality upon those who are alone:
Lost and weary traveler,
Searching for the way to go
Longing for someone to know
May you find a light
May you find a light
May you find a light to guide you home.
There are weary travelers,
Searching everywhere you go
Strangers who are searching,
Longing deeply to be known.
Quickly after the service a person I knew well handed me a fifty-dollar bill. She said I’d know better who could use this tonight than she would, and her hope was that I’d show a little hospitality toward a friend in need. As the fires were put out and as I tucked my son in bed, I reached into my pocket and realized I had forgotten to give away the fifty bucks.
Confessing this to my son as we went Christmas shopping the next morning he spotted a man sitting down by Benny’s Pizza and said, “Dad I found someone to give the money to.” I gave him the money and a brief moment of instruction and watched the two of them interact.
That alone was a beautiful moment. I bent down on the ground and told him the story of how I had forgotten to give this to someone last night at the Homeless Persons’ Memorial and how we both felt that you were the person that needed to have this money. He looked back at both of us and told us that he was there last night, and not only that, but his wife was on the list as someone who had died in the past few months. He spoke of her cancer and how they could not afford treatment, and he spoke of her with fondness and tenderness, he spoke of her with love.
I’ll never forget that moment. I’ll never forget how forgetting to give money away, led my child and me to making a new friend. I’ll never forget how we walked away talking about how beautiful and how sad this world can be. Most of all, I’ll never forget that showing hospitality in a world of closed doors is the very space where God interacts, and shows up.
Gregg Jennings thinks Fredericksburg is a pretty great place to live and he wants everyone else to love it too. He’s a transplant from Missouri, which explains the St. Louis Cardinals support group at Common Ground, the church he has been pastoring for the past decade. An advocate for the homeless and a champion of our local breweries, he takes his faith serious, while trying not to take himself too seriously. He is a Dad, a Dylan fan, and a beard-grower.