Where Are the Churches?

November 13th, 2012

I was talking with a long-time friend today—he lives out in Palo Alto—about the problem of homeless people.

Apparently, his town—which is a very wealthy town where there is a large and wealthy private university—wants to outlaw homeless standard-issue human individuals from sleeping in their vehicles.  There are standard-issue human individuals who want to make it against the law for other standard-issue human individuals people to sleep in their vehicles within the city limits of this town.

There are many issues here, but let me just ask one question:

Where are the churches?

Why aren’t parking lots at churches being opened for these people?  Church volunteers could sleep over in the community rooms, and make the church restrooms, kitchens, and other facilities available to homeless people, for what better place to find a home than in the sanctuary of a Church?  Of synagogue?  Or temple?  Or any place of spirit.

If no one wants to sleep over, many churches could certainly afford to set up outdoor portable toilets, provide running water, and maps on where to go dump vehicle waste systems.  Many can afford to hire security guards.  Better yet, ask the parking lot community to lovingly and peacefully police themselves.  Begin to open their hearts and minds once again to the concept of  being a contributing and responsible member of a community.  Give back to them some sense of belonging.  One must begin somewhere.  Yes, this is a complex and subtle mission.  But if we are not healing our human problems at home, we certainly do not belong in other countries trying to heal their problems.

Where are the churches?

Give people a chance to become once again a part of community.  Let them grow vegetables where there was expensively-manicured church lawns.  Make them responsible for keeping the area clean and attractive.  Show love and compassion, and concern and charity.  Do not ask the government to do what compassionate people of spirit can do for each other.  Directly.  Spiritually.  Lovingly.  Compassionately.

Where are the churches?

The very, very last gesture needed or wanted by a person who is already so broken, alone, and abandoned, is to be abandoned by the churches.  Yes, many of these poor individuals are mentally ill, have no families left, and are difficult to deal with on some occasions.  Bring in some volunteer counselors to assist.  Open your doors to those who seek refuge and succor.  Open your hearts with love and kindness. The spirit of fellowship and community has not abandoned us, for I know that there are those who make wonderful, loving gestures to those in need.

Where are the churches?

Churches have missions in Africa, China, and South America, but many churches are ignoring and abandoning their own neighbors.   Why not take at least 25% of the mission funds available and, perhaps working with other churches, establish safe places—sanctuaries—for homeless people who need a place to park their vehicles, who need to be gently, graciously, lovingly drawn back into community, and who need our love, compassion, and care.

Let us bring these people in from their abandonment, despair, brokenness, and sense of defeat.  Let us give them appreciation, and welcome the gifts they bring to our communities by being willing to receive what they have to offer.  Each human has a special gift of spirit to share with humankind, if only we will give each other the opportunity to share that gift.

Where are the churches?

What better place to be the floor sweeper, the librarian, the singer, the story-teller, or the peace maker than within the sanctuary of the community of the Church?

In these times of magnificent political gestures that enrich the rich and leave the poor homeless, isn’t it our birthright, our opportunity, our gift of grace, to be able to help those who need our help today?  For tomorrow, we may be the ones in need of help.  And if not through our Churches—if not through voluntary compassion and charity—where will we turn when our dollars are dust and our political connections are broken bits of twine?

So many are in need of compassion and sanctuary.

Where are the Churches?

iloilo 13 November 2012

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