The New Year has begun and with it, many of us resolve to try on new habits and discard old vices. Once again I am making a vow to lose weight, exercise more, increase my consumption of organic food while decreasing chips, pop, and candy. I want to increase my walking and decrease my driving. At the very least, I want to try new habits. I am also resolving to increase my activity towards ending homelessness.
As a pastor in a church I can see no good reason that prohibits any congregation from housing, at least, one person who is homeless. For most churches the reason given would be one of safety. But what that really reveals is a church governed by fear rather than faith. And worse, more to the point, it demonstrates that the particular congregation probably doesn’t personally know any one person who is homeless. The former is understandable given human nature, but the latter is a scandal, and deeply damages the reputation of God as the friend of the poor and the provider of daily bread.
This year I want to challenge the congregations of this city to get over their fear and grow up into faith. Every congregation, no matter the size, has the capacity to offer hospitality to one who is homeless. It doesn’t take much effort to meet a homeless person. It doesn’t require massive amounts of resources to house one who is without shelter. All it really requires is for congregations to do what God has done for them: extend a hand of welcome.
I think that every congregation has the capacity to befriend one who is without a roof over their head. A room, a space, a place can be given that would provide shelter from the storm, true sanctuary to enjoy a night of sleep without fear. As the relationship is built, mutual gifts can be exchanged. The congregation might provide food, employment, counseling, friendship. The homeless can offer insight, perspective, partnership and friendship.
At Trinity we created a room six years ago and have continually provided housing with keys to the building and all. In every case our guest has been our friend and the relationship was founded on mutual trust and acceptance. In every case there have been incidents that have tempted us to abandon friendship. But, without exception, we have worked through the incident and remained friends.
It seems to me that churches are constantly chirping about reconciliation. This year I’d like to see every church put this to the test, practicing reconciliation with one who is homeless. And I’d like to encourage those outside of the fellowship of the church, to discern whether or not God is trustworthy, through an evaluation of how particular churches risk their faith in situations that cause them fear.
The Church often talks about compassion. This year let us live acts of courage.
Rev. Rich Lang is pastor of Trinity United Methodist and can be contacted through www.tumseattle.org
PQ: It seems to me that churches are constantly chirping about reconciliation. This year I’d like to see every church put this to the test.