(from the Disciples)
When you drive down South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis, between 6:30 and 8:00 AM on any Friday morning, an unexpected smile may come across your face. You may even laugh, wave, or honk your horn when you see a group of people standing out on the sidewalk holding up signs that simply say "HAPPY FRIDAY." If you are walking to work or school or getting off at the bus stop in front of Compton Heights Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), you will be greeted with: "Happy Friday! Would you like some coffee or hot chocolate?"
It all started in September of 2004 when Madeline Haraway, Chair of the Elders opened the Elders' Circle with the story of a UCC pastor in Washington State who just decided to take his coffee pot and go out to greet people early in the morning. Another of the Elders, Kathy Mead, and pastor, Jacque Foster, brought up the idea in our Faith Sharing and Teaching Ministry Group. The group immediately said, "Let's do it!"
At 6:30 on Friday morning, we set up a small folding table with coffee and all the fixings out on the sidewalk in front of the church. With simple foam board "Happy Friday" signs we greeted folks driving down Grand, those walking by, or getting off buses. We intentionally chose "Happy Friday" rather than an overtly religious greeting, so that everyone is able to feel welcome. In conversation we find the appropriate times and ways to talk about faith.
The response was amazing! As people read the simple "Happy Friday" message, smiles would spread over their faces. Some would burst out laughing. People waved, honked, and yelled. Children on school buses waved and bus drivers honked. On that first day, only a handful of people stopped for coffee, but when we packed up at 8:00 AM so that our church members could go off to work, we just couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces. We were changed!
Within a few weeks, we added hot chocolate for children walking to school. People expected us to be there and began honking their horns as we were setting up. Over time, we have had conversation with those who have lost jobs and lost relationships. We've prayed with a young man whose mother had died, and talked with a young woman who had just spent the night in jail. Sometimes people ask about the church and we have an opportunity to talk about their faith and ours. Most of the time, we simply greet as folks hurry on their way.
One young woman who has now become a part of the congregation, first saw us on a "Happy Friday." She told us she would drive by on her way to work and just could not stop smiling the rest of the day. She decided that anybody who was out there that early; rain, shine, or cold, and looked that happy "must love the Lord," and she needed to find out what was going on at that church!
Twice people have come by with their own homemade 'Happy Friday" signs to greet us back! One woman stopped to tell us that her job has been very difficult lately and that some Fridays our presence helps her get through the day. She asked us to pray for her and for her family. She can trust that we do!
"Happy Friday" is a vital part of the new life of our congregation as we reach out in the radical hospitality of Jesus Christ. People in the community have begun to say, "Oh, you're the 'Happy Friday' people!"
Compton Heights Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
St. Louis, Missouri