Maggie Rybak, a graduate of John Carroll University
The Mosaic of Church Hill
The timing of our encounter with our neighbor could not have been more grace-filled as my fellow ministry volunteers and I parked our van in front of our new home in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond for the first time. Right then, Miss Rachel walked out of her house, directly next to our new home, and welcomed us to the neighborhood. I could immediately feel her excitement. We soon learned that Miss Rachel’s family lived in her house on our street for her entire life. She grew up there and returned after her parents passed. She continues to live there with her dog and receives visits from her brother, her checks on her occasionally. She shared that finally having neighbors has given her a sense of peace. Living alone left Miss Rachel with anxiety about her safety, especially at night. She has said how reassuring it is to know that we are right next to her. In this way, Miss Rachel made us newcomers feel welcome in the Church Hill community from the start.
This year, we have been reading Henri Nouwen’s writing, “A Mosaic That Makes God Visible.” In it, he writes of all of the individual stones that come together to tell a story. Individually, none of the stones come close to telling the full story. However, when examined closely, the beauty of each stone becomes distinct. Like an individual stone, each of us has been given distinct qualities which make us uniquely beautiful. We are placed in communities, which Nouwen relates to a mosaic. One community is different from the next, just as no two mosaics are exactly the same. Nouwen explains that it is when we are in community that the face of God is revealed. When our individual differences come together, we make God visible to the world around us. I am beginning to see our relationships with Miss Rachel and other neighbors in Church Hill as representative of this mosaic.
By embarking on my journey with BSVM, I have become a shimmering stone in two intertwined mosaics. One mosaic includes the community of volunteers with whom I share a home and the other is made up of the larger community in which we live, serve, and worship. Learning about and reflecting on what it means to be a part of a community has made me more aware of my impact on the “whole picture”. By giving my talents to the community, I allow my faults and my gifts to construct my piece of the mosaic. Within our intentional living community, we challenge each other to live out our gifts and provide each other with love and support when we work on our faults. Our small mosaic is constantly changing as we impact each other and grow individually. As this is the first year of the expansion of BSVM’s community to a second location in Richmond, we are learning how our ministry volunteer community fits into the larger Church Hill Community, as well.
Photo: Maggie Rybak (right) with fellow volunteer Rebecca Judge