Monthly Archives: September 2007

UPDATE: Anniversary Week

It was seven years ago that we christened our first home “Jeremiah House” (named so because it was like the pit I imagined that Jeremiah’s fellow Israelites threw him into). Out of that small, 2 bedroom house, we started the Gainesville Catholic Worker in October 2000. During those early months, we started the Breakfast Brigade (with lots of strange looks at the labor pools when we showed up with homemade bread and eggs, and folks were both suspicious and thankful); we formalized the Sunday dinners at St. Francis House, which Kelli had started while working at St. Augustine’s Church; and we shared our home with a few guests in need of a place to stay. The house was too small and falling apart so we opted out of our lease in June and started looking for a better, bigger place in the same neighborhood, Pleasant Street.

For the next three years, Kelli kept it all going: The Breakfast Brigade was run out of her home (with her, some Pax Christi students, her kids and their friends handling it all); the dinners at St. Francis House kept on going with help from Diedre and the youth program out at the blueberry farm; Kelli started community gardens at numerous schools thru the Neighborhood Nutrition Network and a group of us, on behalf of the GCW, ”adopted” the garden at the Sidney Lanier School/Anchor Center, working with the kids there; and Kelli shared her home on occasion with young women in need of shelter. And we kept looking for a new house where we could have a live-in, intentional community, host dinners, do alternative theological education, etc.

In March 2004, we started negotiations to buy our current home, “the Blue House,” at 218 NW 2nd Ave (formerly The Birth Center). We closed the deal in July 2004, took several months moving in and getting started, and we “formally” opened in October 2004, making this also our 3rd anniversary at our current location. The last few years have been both a challenge and a blessing as we have thrived and struggled, made mistakes and seen many of our dreams for this Catholic Worker community come to fruition.

So, this is our ”Anniversary Week,” culminating on Sunday with an anniversary party and open house from 1-4pm, and we are SO hopeful that many of you–friends, supporters, volunteers, EVERYONE–will join us!

Please come and celebrate with us if you can, or join us anytime this week for any of our regular activities which will include an ”anniversary” theme!


Join us for a simple vegetarian dinner Tuesday thru Friday, 6pm.

TUESDAY – Breakfast Brigade, 4:15-7am. If you’ve always wanted to, but just couldn’t quite get out of bed, this is the week we know you can do it! Join us in preparing a homemade breakfast of fresh-baked cinnamon-raisin bread, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh fruit, which we share with our friends at three area labor pools. AND you get to eat some of the bread–with honey butter–too!Scripture Study, 6-7:30pm. We’re studying the book of Exodus, and last week we looked at the birth narrative about Moses, where all the women–even Pharaoh’s own daughter–are breaking the law on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed. (Click here to read more about last week’s study.) We share a simple meal just before we study so feel free to come hungry or even bring something to share.

WEDNESDAY – Morning prayer at the GCW, 7:15-45am. Join us for a simple, reflective morning prayer each Wednesday at the house. Jake leads this week’s reflection.At 11:30am, on the Plaza of the Americas at UF, our good friends from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) will be staging a march and rally to address justice issues they have with Burger King. The CIW folks will be staying at the GCW on Tuesday night before the rally and also speaking in town at several locations, including the Civic Media Center on Tuesday evening. Please join us in supporting the workers by coming out for the rally!Wednesday Night Live, 6-9pm. Students and graduates from UF and Santa Fe provide an evening of fun–a meal and a movie–for our friends, visitors and guests at the house. Join them at 6pm to help prepare this week’s meal, with serving beginning at 7pm.

THURSDAY – Roundtable discussion and dinner. Being our anniversary week, Johnny will share about the Catholic Worker movement, the Gainesville Catholic Worker’s projects and philosophy, and answer all your questions. We discuss and converse while sharing a delicious meal at 6pm. We’ve been getting great turnouts for roundtables this semester, and we’ve had to stretch the food to feed everyone (a good dilemma to have). SO, please bring a dish–salad, bread, some fruit, anything–to share if you can. If you can’t, no worries; just show up!

FRIDAY – Breakfast Brigade, 4:15-7am. A second chance (!) to join us in preparing a homemade breakfast of fresh-baked cinnamon-raisin bread, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh fruit, which we share with our friends at three area labor pools.

SUNDAY – GCW anniversary celebration, 1-4pm. It will be a potluck event, so please bring drinks or food to share (finger foods, et al) with the Servants of Christ Anglican Church providing food as well! We’ll have music, ongoing tours of the house, and at 2pm, Dr. David Hackett, chair of the Department of Religion at UF and a regular volunteer at the house (with his two kids), will give a short talk about the Catholic Worker movement, take questions, etc. Everyone is invited and you can drop by anytime between 1-4pm.


When we study scripture at the GCW, we look carefully at what the text actually says, often going through the passage a sentence at a time. Part of paying close attention to the story itself–identifying characters and what we know about them (social status, gender, occupation), the setting, the action taking place, the dialogue, etc–helps us to often see how different the passage can be from how we may have remembered it, from how it was told and interpreted for us by our churches, family members or even in the popular culture (i.e. in movies, TV, books, et al).

Our passage on Tuesday night, the birth narrative of Moses in Exodus 2:1-10, gave us a good example of this. In the opening verses of this passage, we read about how a woman had a baby boy and kept him hidden for three months (the genocide of Hebrew male babies was Egyptian state policy at this time). When she could keep him hidden no longer, she put him in a basket and … and what? The NRSV version of the Scriptures reads “she put the child in it (the basket) and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.” Everyone present agreed that the popular telling of this story has the baby in a basket, floating down the river – a scenario found in movies from The Ten Commandments to The Prince of Egypt. But the text itself says nothing about the baby floating down the river; instead it shows a mother, fearing that the authorities are coming for her baby, very strategically putting the baby in a basket and hiding him among the reeds on the bank of the river. Furthermore, in verse 4, the sister of the baby is “stationed” at a distance to keep an eye on the baby.

Our popular understanding of this passage, a mother putting her baby in the river and abandoning it to fate, is challenged by a closer reading of the text. What we now see is a mother, faced with an imminent threat to her child because of the genocidal policies of the empire in which she lives, enacting what seems to be a concrete and strategic plan to protect her son–a plan which took intelligence, forethought, (having the bitumen, reeds and pitch on hand; picking out a safe place along the river bank), and strength of character to carry out. The baby being placed in the reeds and the daughter keeping an eye on him (far enough away not to draw the authorities to his hiding place) possibly suggests the mother’s intention to retrieve the baby once the threat has passed. Again, our understanding of the woman in the story changes from a powerless woman simply acting in desperation to a woman who understand what she must do for her family’s survival, she is “street-smart” and adept at finding ways to resist the oppressive system she is living under.

Next Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby boy and identifies it as “one of the Hebrews’ children” in verse 6. She is faced with a dilemma. She knows that her father’s law is that all baby boys born to the Hebrew women are to be “thrown in the river” (notice the irony here of the Hebrew mother following the letter of the law while circumventing the spirit of the law). Yet she feels pity for the crying baby, and is faced with the dilemma of what to do – act on that compassion, or obey the law which she has surely been indoctrinated into, and kill (or at least ignore) the child. But before she acts, the sister of the baby boy pushes Pharaoh’s daughter to cross the line with a well-phrased question: “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Notice how she helps Pharaoh’s daughter to identify with the child and to identify her responsibility to the child with that “for you?” And so Pharaoh’s daughter, who shares in the status and power of her father, will use her own power to diametrically oppose her father and her father’s policies. Where he used his power to inflict indiscriminate death on a people he despises, she identifies with those people who are being oppressed, breaks the law of the land, and uses her status and power to protect and nourish that life instead. She is risking much here, and she is modeling for future generations who read this story what it means for people who have power and status to practice solidarity – to use what they have on behalf of the struggle of those who are oppressed. It raises a powerful question for those of us who have some degree of power and status: Do we identify with those who oppress and enjoy the benefits of that oppression? Or do we identify with the struggle of the oppressed, practice solidarity alongside them, and risk losing what we have?

Here we have again, like the two midwives in Exodus 1, two women–this time from very different social locations–who model resistance to unjust power (wielded so far by men) and show readers, wherever we fall on the spectrum, what it is that we too are called to during our time in history–a time not so different than the one we read about in Exodus all those years ago.

– John

UPDATE: October 1, 2008

Dear friends,

Next Sunday, October 7, we will be celebrating our 3rd anniversary in our home at 218 NW 2nd Avenue and our 7th anniversary overall. We started the GCW in a little house, christened Jeremiah House, just two blocks from where we are now, in October 2000. We moved into our current home in late July 2004, and “officially” began our work here with an “open house” on October 3, 2004. (I put “officially” in quotation marks because we actually had our first guest at the house in September 2004 when the hurricanes passed thru town. Ask Johnny about that story some time. . .) So all of you–our friends, supporters, volunteers, everyone–is invited to join us on Sunday, October 7 from 1-4pm for an open house celebration marking our anniversaries! We’ll have food, music, tours of the house, speakers and more! We invite you to join us at anytime during the open house or for the entire afternoon. While we’ll provide some food and drink, we’re hoping that others will bring a dish or drink to share as well, i.e. potluck-style. Please join us if you can! We would love to have as many of you as can come!

ALSO, we are really excited about our new website! Check it out, and let us know what you think. Suggestions are welcome.

Thanks last week to the students and young adults who hosted what may have been one of the largest crowds for Wednesday Night Live ever, and to Eve MacMaster, pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church, for leading us in our Roundtable discussion on Thursday. And we’re STILL a little short of help on Tuesday mornings for Breakfast Brigade. Another 2-3 regulars would be really great!

Check out this week’s schedule.