Rob Farley inspires us at William Penn House every time we participate in the daily breakfast he organizes. About a decade ago, he was a corporate attorney living on Capitol Hill. He started attending Capitol Hill United Methodist Church not so much because he felt the church had much to offer, but as an observer. Having grown up in the Bible Belt he felt alienated by a religion that he he saw being used as a cultural hammer. (Rob always makes a point to tell Quaker-affiliated groups that his roots also go back to Quakers in PA). But he was curious. Within a year of following that curiosity, he got baptized and began asking “How can I take the Gospel seriously?” One day, on his morning jog by the church to roust the people sleeping on the steps before the police were called, someone asked for a cup of coffee. This first of coffee has become a daily breakfast that many of us at William Penn House also join in – a fellowship breakfast that brings together many homeless people and others who live in the neighborhood, including a committed group of folks who help in whatever ways they can. After all are fed, Rob reads from a daily devotional that often spurs further conversation. It is Rob’s way of continuing to explore taking the Gospel seriously. Rob’s life has also been transformed. He is no longer a corporate lawyer (although still a practicing attorney as needed), moved from Capitol Hill and now owns a house in northeast DC that he shares with 6 other men in an intentional community. His housemates used to live on the streets.
As often as we can, we go as individuals or take groups to be a part of witnessing Rob’s faith journey in a way that inspires us to look at our own journey, comfort, and commitment to change. It is the rare person who makes the complete life transformation that Rob does, but we are transformed in small ways. One way is that we have a different sense of relating to the people living on the streets that so often are not seen. In many cases, they are now people with names rather than nameless faces to be ignored. We are all part of one community. In this spirit, all people truly are welcome.
Rob is a person of few words, but what he says carry weight and wisdom. Here are some to consider for today:
“Either you turn your head or you engage.”
Which do you do?