At noon this coming Tuesday, a small group of people will meet on Trinity Square just outside the south door of the church to remember all the people who have died homeless on the streets of our city. We will light candles, read the names of those who have died in the past month, hear remembrances from people who knew them, observe a short period of silence, read a poem, listen to a song, share announcements of events related to the struggle against homelessness and perhaps express some frustration at our inability to effect change. Then we will come inside the church for lunch.
On other days when the church is open to the public, homeless people will come and go. Some will sleep for hours on couches at the back of the church. Some will use the phone. Some will chat with the People Presence volunteer or with the caretaker on duty. Most will be quiet and respectful of the space. A few will be loud and disruptive. By virtue of their humanity, all will challenge us to treat them with dignity and respect. And, by their very presence, each one of them will challenge us to question what we can do, what we are doing, to make a real difference in their lives.
There is no question that the thing they need most is a home. There is no question that Holy Trinity has a role to play, and has long played a key role, in advocating for more affordable housing. There is no question that the work of advocacy is intense, that it consumes a lot of time and energy, and that those who are deeply involved in it have little time to respond in more immediate ways.
There is also no question that social change takes time and that, even when the public will to act is strong, houses are not built overnight. So as the behind the scenes advocacy work is going on and just how much of that is going on at Holy Trinity right now? the need remains for Holy Trinity to offer some level of hospitality to the homeless people who come here. Is it enough to let them sleep at the back of the church when the doors are open, give them an occasional cup of coffee and share our Sunday lunch with them? Could we be doing more, should we be doing more, to bring a measure of comfort and dignity to their lives right now?
Some people at Holy Trinity think we should and they are willing to take the lead in doing it. At a congregational meeting after the service next Sunday (January 13) they will be sharing a proposal and asking for the support of others. Please come and listen to what they have to say. Even if what they propose is not what you believe most needs to be done, please give them your attention and offer them your gratitude for the care for the homeless that they are expressing on behalf of this church. Let’s receive their proposal as a call to consider what Holy Trinity’s response to homelessness ought to be at this particular moment in its history and given that, by their very presence in our church, homeless people require a response from us.