The word 'Venerate' sums up what we do and how we operate here at Reconciliation Services but what does it mean?
Recently a close friend visited Diveyevo Convent in Russia while on pilgrimage. This was the very place where a famous Orthodox Christian monk, St Seraphim of Sarov, labored as pastor. In 1921, the fourth year of Soviet rule, the Diveyevo Convent was destroyed; the bells were silenced, churches and cells were emptied but in recent decades it has undergone a renewal and has been restored as an active monastery.
While visiting, a priest of the Convent began to share with my friend something unusual that had been happening in last two years. The priest related that a painted wooden icon all covered with soot, previously unknown, had been discovered on the monastery grounds. All sensed that it was very special but the soot obscured the image entirely. So they began to perform prayers in front of the icon every day in the church. After several months the faithful found a little spot on the hands and on the forehead that began to be lighter. They continued to pray and within a year they saw a face appear. Within two years the icon was miraculously and totally restored! Under the soot was none other than St Seraphim himself!
When I heard this story I thought it was a powerful image of the human condition and cure. Rather than political rhetoric and argument usually wrapped up in blame, this story gives us a way to sidestep the pitfalls in discussing how to "serve the poor" and opens a way for both the rich and the poor to seek mutual healing and reconciliation.
Each of us is in fact a living icon, created in the image of God but striving to recover our likeness. Each of us is covered over in layers of soot; various trials, experiences, passions, addictions and struggles. Through contact with the love of God communicated through the tender actions of other fellow strugglers, the true person is revealed. This story has become the primary way I understand the work of Reconciliation Services and thus the meaning of the word Veneration.
There are many ways of speaking about human beings, especially those of our neighbors who are in need who come to 31st and Troost. At RS we seek for every action—be it emergency services, self-sufficiency services or economic community building—to be an act of veneration. What we have found is that by treating each person with authentic respect and seeking to reveal their hidden strengths rather than "fix" visible deficits, people who otherwise felt hopeless find dignity, strength and solutions.