Wednesday, January 20, 2010

'Compelled to Serve' - Remembering the Homeless

Because the 'City of Peace' conference of November 7th joined Roanoke civic leaders together with representatives of an interfaith clergy and community members, Congregations in Action was invited to co-host a service on December 18th to commemorate National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day.  Carol Tuning, Human Services Coordinator for Roanoke's Homeless Assistance Team and Chair of the Blue Ridge Continuum of Care expressed her gratitude for our help:
On behalf of the Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Advisory Council on Homelessness, we would like to thank you for participating in the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Service. This was a very important event for our community. It affords those who are affected directly by homelessness an opportunity to remember their loved ones and allows agencies in the region to have a forum to advocate and create awareness about homelessness.

Your participation was very poignant and will hopefully leave meaningful impressions on all in attendance. We appreciate the time and energy you invested in preparing special music and commemoration and hope that you will consider returning in the future for this annual service.

Again, thank you. We wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Carol Tuning, Human Services Coordinator
Chair, Blue Ridge Continuum of Care
Consequently, I'd like to in turn, extend my own appreciation to Pastors Gary Robbins and Tim Harvey for their ministerial guidance, in addition to Fred Porter, Susan Starkey, and Phillip DeNise for graciously contributing their combined talents and ability to the ceremony.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Prayer for the City

I offered this prayer at the January 4, 2010 Roanoke City Council Meeting.

Here it is, God; the first agenda items on one of the first days of this new year.

Here they are, God; the elected leaders of this great city, and the professional staff who work to make our local government run.

Help these leaders—and each of us—begin this year well, because beginnings are important. We know that how we begin often determines where and when we end, so on this day, and in this place, our God, we ask that you would help each of us to begin this new year well.

We ask because there are challenges ahead, O God. Some are known all too well. Others are unknown, waiting to be revealed. May the good beginnings we ask you for today lead us to courageous thinking in time of challenge.

But we also ask because we know that there are interesting opportunities ahead. These we cannot see, or perhaps only see vaguely. Again, we ask that the good beginnings we seek today would lead us to bold, creative thinking when the time to seize opportunity comes.

Help us, O God, and hear this, our prayer.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Paying attention to shepherds...and the homeless

This post is a bit late, but still manages to capture some important values of our congregation. So enjoy a late Christmas present on me. Tim
Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why these songs of happy cheer?
Come, adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn king.
Gloria in excelsis Deo. Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Arthur Cole...Laura Scales...James Davis...William Dooley...Leonard Sinkler...
One by one, the names were read. At the calling of the names, a bell tolled, and a candle was lighted.

...Penny Lane...Tammy Blankenship...Robyn Hancock...Paul Wade...Bernard Dillard...
The names were not familiar to us. Had we seen a photograph, probably no one in attendance would have recognized a face, except possibly a face we had once avoided, eye contact we did not wish to make.

...Oscar Cheatwood...Eric White...Alfred Brown...Sydney Liggins...John Harvey...
The names were read at the Homeless Persons Memorial Service, held Friday, December 18. About 50 persons—not nearly enough—gathered to recognize the life and dignity of 26 of our neighbors who died during the past year. These men and women had chosen to make Roanoke their home, even though they had no place of their own to call home—at least, not in the sense that you and I do.

...Calvin Stump...Paul Switzer...Dana Stith...Susan Robertson...Wayne Heath...
Remember these 26 names the next time you sing the Christmas hymn, Angels, we have heard on high. Think of these 26 homeless men and women, and try to imagine their stories, and their families. Why? Because of the shepherds in the Christmas story.

You see, shepherds lived on the fringe of Jesus’ society, just as the homeless live on the fringe of our society. Most would not want to be around shepherds; the coarseness of their living made them offensive to polite society. In Jesus’ day, shepherds’ character was so suspect that they were not allowed to testify in court. They lived on the fringe. Out of sight, out of mind.

And yet on the most holy night of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were the first ones to get the news that a Savior had been born. Not the dignitaries, not the noble men and women. Shepherds, out in the fields, out on the fringe of society. They got the news of the Savior’s birth, and they went to Bethlehem to see. They may have been out of our sight and mind, but they were not out of God’s sight and mind.

God saw fit to bring these fringe-living shepherds right in to see His Son. We should think about that this Christmas, and remember the names of 26 homeless men and women who called Roanoke their home, who died in 2009. We should think about that, and remember many other homeless men and women who continue to call Roanoke home. If God can welcome in those on the fringes of society, so should we.

...Bryce Allison...Alonzo Hodge...Alma Sawyer...David Helms...Lucille Woolfolk...Pete Betuea.