“So…Like What Is Your Theology?” -Nathan at The Boulevard

Outreach Ecclesia MinistriesWhat is Theology
What is my theology

-Nathan at the The Boulevard shelter on 124th and Lexington in Harlem

“So what is your theology, like what is theology for you, personally?” Nathan said as we sat outside the Boulevard a shelter on the east side of Harlem located just in off the corner of 124th and Lex. Nathan’s question had me rattled. What was I supposed to say? I am nearing the end of my seminary tract and I still don’t really know what I believe or what is the definition of theology for the common person. So when Nathan asked me to explain my theology I was lost. I thought, “I can’t believe that I still don’t have an answer for those with a simple request of what theology is.”
His thoughts were sincere and he will never remember me most assuredly, but one could hope, one can be optimistic that I would stick out among the 1000 people who have probably already handed him food and conversation, in hopes that he would radically change his “ways” after a short brief impersonal conversation to a complete stranger.
But we all who do outreach hope that at length we will be the Buddha, or Krisna, or as a Christian the Jesus for someone. That we will be their savior.
I admit that I have selfish intentions for outreach. I get satisfaction out of the feeling that I helped someone. I know that I’m just a vessel but I do find catharsis in this work. I guess what I mean is I’m hoping to absolve my own sins. That in a ascetic way I’m being forgiven by taking on the sins of others. I know it’s kind of sick, but let’s be real. Many of us feel this same way. We love the work we do and and it nearly kills us every time but in that near death experience we find absolution and relief from our stories at our “clients”, “friends” expense. We are no saints.
Outreach hurts me in many ways, not physically but psychologically and emotionally. Simultaneously outreach charges my spirit and gives me a rechargeable battery. I honestly believe if not for doing outreach, I would no longer believe in G-d.
It’s painful and it’s a painful experience. I burn out almost every two weeks. Outreach is not easy work, I love it though. I love the people I have met from the shortest experience to the ones I’m still working with 10 years later. But, still it kills me that I can’t just end their suffering, that I can’t take their desire for drugs and alcohol away. That I can drink and others can’t, they simply can’t they will die. That’s heavy knowledge. Those are heavy chains to carry. Those experiences leave me wanting for a living theology. I identify with their struggle, I empathize with their struggle and I believe in a God that is in the midst of that struggle, I believe in a Harm Reduction theology of patience and compassion.
But, that doesn’t help me to know what my theology is. That doesn’t help me to have a living theology. Haha, I don’t think anything will.


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