A chalice, a paten and a vow of poverty:
Rev. Lorenza Andrade-Smith

By the Rev. Judy Worthington, pastor of Bethel Belle Haven charge, Eastern Shore

“There is a warrant for my arrest because I was sleeping outside on a park bench. That type of criminalization of people of poverty needs to come to an end.” Lorenza Andrade-Smith arrived at General Conference with nothing more than a small backpack and a bedroll. She took up residence outside on the ground near the Common Witness Tabernacle. She is an ordained elder in the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church who has taken a vow of poverty and sold her house, her car and most of her possessions in order to be in ministry with those living on the streets in her community.

When she tried to enter the Tampa Convention Center for General Conference she was asked to leave because she had no shoes. She says, “I walk with no shoes because I want to be intentional about my movement, to slow down, to feel the earth under my feet. It is a spiritual discipline and a way that I can be an advocate for the very poor who have no shoes, and a way that I am in community with them.”


The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith is a United Methodist clergywoman
from the Southwest Texas Conference appointed to a ministry of
presence and advocacy with the homeless.

“Poverty is a symptom of even larger issues going on around our world. The biggest concern for me is the criminalization of the poor and it is happening here. It is happening all over the world.“ She has arrest warrants against her for sleeping on public property. On one occasion when she tried to enter the courthouse an officer got a mop and hit her with it. She left and went outside and put on her clerical collar and went back inside where she walked up to the officer who hit her. She says, “I didn’t say anything. I didn’t shout or demean him. I just stood before him. His jaw dropped.”

He said, “Are you a nun!”

I said, “Not quite.”

She carries a chalice and a paten with her wherever she goes. She was banned from entering a homeless shelter because they said the chalice she carries could be used as a weapon. So she slept on a park bench where she was arrested for sleeping on public property and thrown in jail. When she appeared before the judge he ordered her to do community service – and sent her to the very shelter she had been thrown out of. For her the chalice is a tangible way that she brings Christ with her into the community of the poor. When people ask her about her chalice she tells them about the presence of Christ. One man crossing the border between Mexico and the US said, “Now I know I am no longer alone.”

Rev. Andrade-Smith is concerned about the criminalization of immigration. She says, “The Arizona law, SB1050 that criminalizes immigration is a precedent. What is happening in Arizona is being recognized around the world and will have a global effect if it goes forward. We have to be forward thinking and prophetically stand in the pulpits in our local churches, and in our schools. We need to work alongside all peoples in our areas.”

She tirelessly campaigned on behalf of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) that allows illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children to apply for conditional legal status after attending college or serving in the military for two years. She believes the DREAM Act will change the landscape of this country – allowing young people who would otherwise not qualify for work permits because of their immigration status to work legally.

When asked what was the hardest thing for her regarding her vow of poverty she replied, “The hardest thing is survival on the streets. I work on advocacy. I go to churches and build community. The church has been good to me. People on the streets have been a loving, hospitable community who care for me. Here in Tampa a man stopped me and said it was going to be cool outside at night and he gave me his blanket.”

 

 

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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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