A Review of
Praying with Our Feet: Pursuing Justice and Healing on the Streets
Reviewed by Joe Davis
In Praying with Our Feet, Lindsey Krinks gives compelling witness to the transformative power of God’s love on personal, interpersonal, and communal levels. This memoir, Krinks’s first book, is a beautiful narration of her spiritual journey of discernment over the course of nearly a decade starting in 2007. In it, she shares how her sense of vocation evolves from pursuing physical therapy as an undergraduate at Lipscomb University to radical street chaplaincy accompanying unhoused friends living under the overpasses and within the hidden encampments of Nashville, TN. Krinks weaves together personal struggles, family history, liberation and feminist theologies, contemplative spirituality, disaster response, outreach and advocacy with the unhoused, protest and civil disobedience, friendships gained and lost, starting a non-profit, and creating an alternative faith community seeking justice and healing on the streets. She draws deeply from radical saints like Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Thomas Merton, Gustavo Gutierrez, Emilie Townes, Dorothee Soelle, Walter Brueggemann and more to connect her stories and the stories of her community to the larger story of God’s coming kingdom. The result is an intensely inspiring, authentically human, and profoundly hopeful work that leaves you asking: how is God inviting me to put feet to my prayers and join in the Spirit’s march of justice and healing?
Book-ended by two rallies at the Nashville city hall decrying the treatment of unhoused image-bearers, the story Krinks tells is a deeply personal and vulnerable account of discerning vocation that is full of struggle, risk-taking, and “living the questions now”. Krinks’s questions are vital ones for all followers of Jesus: “Where should I go to find God? The church or the world? The spires or the streets? To what life was I being called? To one of comfort and upward mobility? Or to what [Dorothy] Day called ‘the downward path that leads to salvation’?” Through her ministry with Nashville’s unhoused, Krinks comes to understand her calling “to follow in the footsteps of a homeless, Galilean who spent his time on the underside of society, who balanced healing and teaching with raising holy hell.” The journey to this sense of discernment highlights the vital role of community, peer relationships, and mentors, the power of stability and a commitment to place, and the necessity of Sabbath, spiritual retreat, and contemplative practices for sustainability. Reflecting on her ordination to street chaplaincy, Krinks sums up her sense of vocation in a beautiful way: “We are a wick, ready to be lit by the living God, ready to burn, to bring warmth to those freezing in the shadows, and to light the lukewarm world aflame.”
As Krinks narrates her journey of vocational discernment, her commitment of solidarity and accompaniment alongside her unhoused friends is a recurring theme. This solidarity is founded on the courageous, risky promises Krinks makes at several key moments when her friends were facing eviction, arrest, displacement from natural disaster, and personal hardship. I was especially struck by her promise to accompany a man named Ken who would sign-off in text messages as “Ima nobody.” After saying yes to being Ken’s advocate when others had ignored him for so long, Ken’s sign-off slowly changed to “Ima somebody”, to “Ima Rockstar”, and then, finally, to “Ima badass.” This journey of transformation alongside Ken and many others set Krinks free from the guilt-based work of being a fixer and savior and gave her eyes to see the importance of relationships and proximity for a ministry of presence and accompaniment. Krinks’s radical praxis exposes the shortcomings of too many Christian responses to suffering that claim to prioritize relationships with the poor over transactional charity yet are ultimately unwilling to make the commitment to accompaniment, co-liberation, and advocacy that are necessary for those relationships to move beyond what Krinks calls a safe “charity-oriented love” into a dangerous “justice-oriented love”. Her example will challenge and inspire any compassionate follower of Christ seeking restoration and healing in their community.
Another intriguing thread to follow in Krinks’s story is her relationship with churches as well as the ecclesiology she now embraces. As her work turned to disrupting systems of injustice and oppression, she describes how her voice became unwelcome in a wealthy suburban church she once cherished and with which she had been a very active member for many years. She also describes an encounter with a more diverse and less wealthy church that was similarly disappointing. While there were a couple of examples of churches that were willing to support her work, Krinks finds her spiritual home in a new expression of Christian community on the streets called Amos House that she and other outreach workers and advocates founded. This community embodies a prophetic and Spirit-filled ecclesiology that is found in the places the prophet Ezekiel described as valleys of dry bones. In those barren and low-lying places, the church is “tasked not with ‘solving’ anything but with showing up again and again, prophesying to the bones and breath, and getting our hands and feet dirty in the struggles of the world.” Krinks testifies boldly of how “it is in the valley, in the river, in the shadows, always, that we find our God.” For pastors and church leaders, Krinks’s witness poses critical questions; Would her voice be welcome in your congregation? How can our formation practices be reshaped to develop followers of Jesus who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God even when God is in the valleys and shadows?
Finally, Krinks’s story resonated with me on a personal level. I lived in Nashville in 2010 and met Krinks and many of the friends she mentions after the flood that displaced the residents of Tent City. I attended the community meeting at the church in Antioch supporting Tent City. I passed Captain Chris many mornings on my way to work as he sold copies of The Contributor at the McDonald’s on 8th Street. Over time I got to know him and always enjoyed reading his poems and songs in the paper. I left Nashville in mid-2011 and was only marginally involved in the work Krinks describes. While I regret my lack of faithful action then, Krinks’s story challenges me to put feet to my prayers now. Affordable housing is at dangerous, crisis levels in every state and metropolitan area in America. “Only 37 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households” in America, reports the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). In addition, NLIHC research shows that “in no state can a person working full-time at the federal minimum wage afford a two-bedroom apartment.” Followers of Jesus dedicated to the work of solidarity and accompaniment that Krinks models are needed in literally every city and state in our nation. I heard Reverend William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, say recently that “the transformation is coming from the valley of dry bones.” Krinks has proven him right and her story demands a response. May God give us the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the faith to risk this journey of justice and healing in the valleys all around us.