Today we’re getting ready to gather for a memorial for a man named, Phillip, who had been a part of our community for many years. Over the years I’ve watched how Network becomes a surrogate family for so many women and men who have for one reason or another detached from their family of origin and this happened to be the case for Phil. It’s our privilege to declare Phil as one who came from God, embodied the divine image in his own unique way, and now has returned to the reconciling Source of love.
As I prepare for the memorial my memories are shifting back three years to another gathering we held for a man named Michael Lee Marshall. Michael was a fixture here. His smile, laughter, his love of music, and his gratitude for his Network family were just a few of the many fond memories we hold of Michael.
Michael battled an illness called paranoid schizophrenia and the majority of society was unable to respond to Michael with a heart of acceptance and compassion. Whether it’s psychological challenges, drug addiction, or simply the reality of being unhoused our society is not known for taking the time and necessary energy to pause, acknowledge, and creatively help restore dignity to the many women and men who have been de-humanized by their pre-occupied neighbors.
This is why our work at Network is vital. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you so that you can be where I am.” (John 14:3) We are in the business of preparing a place—a warm place where beloved community flourishes, a place safe enough to be yourself, a place where the experience of welcome overshadows any sense of judgment.
A large part of being that beloved community among marginalized sisters and brothers has to do with preserving and re-calling memory. Today we re-member the precious life of Phillip Hodgkinson and while we're at it we see you too, brother Michael Lee!