In 1952, when I was one and thirty and new to Washington, D. C., two friends invited me to visit a class that Gordon Cosby was teaching at The Church of The Saviour. I was fond of these friends and in the debt of their love, so out of respect for what was important to them I went to visit the church that they were excited about and described as “different.” I remember trying to take care of my resistance by telling myself, “What are you worrying about? It is onlv one evening to kill.”
Gordon’s class was my first introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. I listened spellbound. I had not been reared in a church and had not learned from Christian friends or my contacts with churches the revolutionary nature of the Gospel. I found it good news, foretelling a world of justice and caring, where the last were first, and everyone was needed and wanted and had a life to celebrate at the end of the day.
Gordon suggested that members might want to help build the community toward which the sermon pointed. This was exactly what I wanted to do, though I was quite aware that a people committed to healing and beauty might have to make sacrifices and suffer. What I did not know then was the nature of that suffering, how wounded each one of us is, and how great is the task of loving ourselves and loving others. When the class was over someone asked me to sign the guest book. I hesitated, thinking I am no guest in this house. I signed, nonetheless, to record the date.
Almost forty years have gone by since that night. The Scriptures in my hands still seem new, and do their greening work. I also have the distinct impression that The Church of The Saviour is all new-perhaps because it, too, seems to be setting out on yet another stage of its journey. Over the years I have tried to give readers a glimpse of a community as it struggled to take seriously the Sermon, and I have taken up that same work once again for this book.
The first chapter was gleaned from my introduction to the first edition of Gordon’s Handbook for Mission Groups, and the second from The New Community , a book I wrote in 1975. The third gives a hint of what has happened since then. The reader will be able to note through all three chapters a deepening and expanding of the concepts of servant leadership.
I want to thank my friends for all the assistance they gave. Marcy Porter researched the permissions and typed the first two chapters which Toni Wren entered into a computer. I wrote the third directly on a new Macintosh Classic given to me, together with a printer, by friends who wanted to make writing easier for me. John Tuohey was the overseer of this first publishing effort of the new Servant Leadership School described in the book.
Dorothy Devers, the author of Faithful Friendship and the editor of my books, was undoubtedly hoping that she might be replaced by the skills of the new technology I was mastering. That possibility, however, never existed. No computer will ever have her understanding of the well-designed sentence, not to mention the generosity of spirit required to perfect the work of another.
The cover and book design are the work of Laurie Swindull.
The publisher’s logo on the back cover and title page is of Jimilu’s bronze Parable which stands on the sidewalk in front of the School. The work is her companion piece to the figure of the Servant Christ across the street in front of our medical facility for homeless men. When Jimilu was placing this new figure of the teaching Christ on our ghetto street she was aware that passersby averted their eyes as though art was something not intended for them. Finally a woman stopped and asked, “How long is he going to be here?” “Oh, he’s going to live here,” Jimilu replied. “He is here to stay.”
‘Well, then,” said the woman, “I will take a look.”
The photograph of the stained glass window on the cover was taken by David Welsh. The window is one of twelve, created by Gregory Cary and Bentley Roton of Woodstock, New York, to frame the entrance to the Servant Leadership School. The work is entitled Celestial Journey. The same artists created the stained glass windows in the chapel of the School. They have named their new work Epiphanies: intuitive perceptions of the essential meaning. In talking of these windows the artists expressed the hope that they would give to those in the room their own experiences of Epiphany-“moments of discovery, flashes of recognition.” The words went to my own heart. Perhaps theirs is the wish of each of us that the things that we do in life may in some way be the bearers of the eternal.