Day 26: Our Daily Bread

It all started with a pot of coffee.

Rob Farley had volunteered to run by the church every morning to wake CHUMC2the people who were sleeping on the steps of the church before the police came by.  One snowy, cold morning, one of the men asked Rob if there was any coffee. Rob’s first inclination was to say he did not have time, but then he recalled, from the Book of Matthew, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” That first pot of coffee became a daily ritual with a few people until, one day, another man spent a portion of his disability check on cereal and milk. 7 years later, this coming together to share a meal is a vibrant part of the Capitol Hill Community that brings people from all walks of life together.

CHUMC1“Our Daily Bread” is organized by Rob who, along with Margot Eyring and David Kennedy, using whatever food has been purchased and/or donated and put together a filling breakfast, while also taking a few minutes to read a daily reflection (or on Wednesdays, participate in Bible Study), and having good fellowship with whoever shows up. Faces become names, and a community of strangers becomes of a community of friends. It becomes a transformative experience for those who regularly participate, including some of the staff and interns at William Penn House. Hundreds of volunteer groups, including many of our Quaker Workcamp groups, also go. It becomes a part of the fabric of our lives.

For Rob, there is also the deeper transformation. The former corporate lawyer and Capitol Hill resident now leads an inspiring life that many people might admire, but few would actually have the courage to live. He lives in an intentional community in a house he purchased near Marvin Gaye Park in NE DC. All of his housemates at one time lived on the streets. He works as he has to to keep the roof over his head, but otherwise lives life in the service of the community. His story, alone, touches the lives of the hundreds of people every year who join in for breakfast as neighbors from the area or as visitors to DC to do service work.

IMG_1652This evening at William Penn House, we are honoring “Our Daily Bread” at our annual “Creating the Peaceable Kingdom” event. What happens here every day is a living model for what it is to live in community and fellowship. We hope you can join us tonight at 6PM, or perhaps can make your way some morning to Capitol Hill Methodist Church for breakfast.

And for today, take a few moments to reflect on Matthew 25: 31-40, the verses that have been at the root of this wonderful example of what it is to live in faith:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


Day 24: Janie Boyd

Janie Boyd was born in in 1930 Charleston, South Carolina to a family that preached love for others. As a small girl she was taught to serve her neighbors when her grandmother would have her run food to her less fortunate neighbors. After moving to Washington, DC with her husband in the early 1950’s, Janie continued to serve others by bringing comfort to the discomforted in the form of food, clothing, and other necessities. She remains tirelessly active in advocating for and serving the residents of DC, helping to arrange gleaning trips, food deliveries, and planting community gardens. She once met President Lyndon B. Johnson and called on him to not ignore DC community in his “War on Poverty”. To this day, she calls him her “buddy.”  She remains committed to meeting the needs of the community, and we at William Penn House are blessed to consider a friend, inspiration and co-worker. When she meets people through our programs, she always drops pearls of wisdom (“you can’t learn without good food in your belly”, “spending an hour with nature is good for your soul”) and let’s everyone know they are always welcome and loved.


Janie with LBJ

For Janie, it is the culmination of the little things that matter. Her constant reminder to us is this: “It doesn’t matter what time of the day, if you call me I will pick up my phone for you. It doesn’t matter who you are, no one should go hungry in our nations capitol.”


Day 20: Rob Farley

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.


Rob after reading the Daily Reflection

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?