The Weight of Mercy: A Novice Pastor on the City Streets by Deb Richardson-Moore
Is she crazy? Has she gone off her rocker? These questions came to mind early on in this wonderful book entitled The Weight of Mercy by Deb Richardson-Moore. Going from the limelight of journalism to the grimy, maddening world of ministry to homeless men and women at Triune Mercy Center is quite a change to say the least. Yet, as the story unfolds in the book, Moore is confronted with the widening scope of God’s mercy among people who were addicted, abused, and who brought upon themselves much ruin.
Early on in the book, Moore writes, “On most days, I felt I’d stepped into a funhouse. It was a surreal place, in which Butch and Deloris – the two people I most depended on – sniped and whined and, I was sure, spoke disparagingly of me to the homeless people we served” (46). Butch would continually yell at Pastor Moore and want to shorten up the hours for caring for the homeless. Yet, through all this, Pastor Moore began to gain a dose of wisdom as to the posture of the church’s role in the life of the homeless. She writes, “I felt like a lousy pastor. At the root of it, I didn’t understand a pastor’s role. I thought the best way to help someone was to give him what he asked for. That couldn’t have been more misguided: Our people had a lifetime of bad decisions, and here I was expecting the next decision to be a good one” (65). On this account we see the inner turmoil and struggle of wanting to provide for the homeless but not fully knowing the best way. This section reveals a deep humbling of Pastor Moore’s spirit, not only in respect to the homeless but also the calling of a pastor. Without these rough patches, I don’t think Moore would have realized the right way through in reaching these homeless men and women.
Coming to the realization that without true recovery and rehab the homeless at Mercy would never change their ways, Moore began to embark on this path with the help of other counselors. By firing Butch and putting Alfred in a more prominent role, things began to run more smoothly at Triune. Part of the changes involved those who were receiving aid to help out around the church, giving them a sense of responsibility (93). Two steps in the right direction involved clamping down on rudeness and the hiring of David Gay to oversee rehabilitation and recovery. God was faithful in providing Triune both a grant and funding from certain organizations. David began to research how other rehabilitation centers functioned and started the process of helping the homeless by giving them work and shuttling them to the rehab center. Change took place not in an instant but through a combination of many people helping these men and women with things from job skills to addiction recovery.
A person without a back bone, without thick skin could not minister in these conditions, but Pastor Moore has shown that with God’s mercy Triune Mercy Center would flourish. Looking to the Bible and St. Benedict’s rule, Triune Mercy Center welcomes the stranger as one who would welcome Christ. I was amazed at the provision of God for the people at Triune but also the gritty determination of Pastor Moore to never let go of sharing God’s mercy to those whom others would scorn. This book was powerful in that it pushed the reader to see the ravages of sin and brokenness in the world but also brought forth a vision for ministry that seeks the good of the whole person, addictions and all.
Thanks to Kregel Publications for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.