This blog was written by Pamela Lyons-Nelson, Convenor of the Poverty and Homelessness Working Group. The Working Group has an upcoming online and silent auction called “Baskets of Plenty” coming this October to replace the basket raffle, previously held at Diocesan Conventions.
Sitting here in the morning coolness, the work of the Poverty and Homelessness Working Group in its various forms sitting on my dining room table with the laptop, I realize how much I love this work. What could be better than to have some small part in not just relieving the grinding agony of homelessness, but, increasingly, working to end it? The outreach ministries we come across, and the big issues of housing and health care, remind us that we are our Savior’s hands and heart, as well as eyes and ears, in this world. You speak to us about that awesome opportunity in your congregation when we meet you.
When I drive to Silverton, I stop by to watch the progress on the tiny houses for aging women that you Episcopalians there teamed up with the community to build. The result is 4 tiny houses on church property for some who had all but lost hope, and now see that these followers of our Lord don’t give up on them. You could write the book on what it takes to wade through state and county regulations to get them changed to allow us to serve in this way, and we hope you do write it. You are pathfinders. Love in action.
As my eyes wander over the pile of paper, I see the email from a new deacon who wants to do the work she has been called to do and sense her faith and fresh energy. We can always use more of her to guide others to resources, and maybe hand out personal care/ hygiene kits at a community pantry or meal, as happens in Lebanon with St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, as well as at St. Martin’s in Shady Cove. These are not their only ministries, just the ones they need a bit of help on. Both are incredibly small communities that do this outsized work. And they are not alone. We have many, many small congregations that apply for funds, sometimes occasionally, sometimes every year. Love serving love alongside food and kits.
We simply cannot forget the impact of the work St. Timothy’s does in Brookings. This tiny church just never quits serving the poor and unsheltered, even when the opposition is such a strong headwind. They stand between life and death more times than we can know. For some whom they serve, suicide often feels like the only option when the wider community just wants you gone, and Father Bernie and the St. Tim’s team just refuse to let people stand alone. And so do the rest of the congregations who apply for our grants. These are funds that come from the congregants of this diocese that go right back out to make faith, hope, and love concrete and visible.
All of us on the Working Group could cite many examples in the diocese of meeting holy needs by funding through our grants of up to $1,000. You and I and everyone on the Working Group know this to be the two little fishes and 5 loaves of bread. Jesus knew that being in a body can be tremendously challenging and tells us, in no uncertain terms, what to do about it in Matthew 25.
The past year and a half have been devastating in terms of having the funds to continue, and even to expand the work of supporting ministries financially as they struggle to meet the new needs of wildfire and pandemic, alongside the growing crisis of homelessness. We know that when you donate, buy a raffle ticket (not this year!), or bid at our upcoming Baskets of Plenty auction (yes!), that we are in the presence of people living out those old, old Biblical stories. And that’s miracle enough for those of us on the Commission to continue. As I sit here this morning, my prayer is that you will join and support us in the middle of these miracles.