Winter is Coming

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Winter is Coming

My schedule changes much from week to week depending on who is available when and for what. I might be running to a nearby congregation to receive a donation of bread for our hungry brothers and sisters or hurrying off to a meeting with passionate people who have questions about how best to care for our beloved downtown and elsewhere. Suffice it to say, my daily schedule is busy and eclectic, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I have the incredible blessing of being a part of a community that places a few steady anchors in my life and calls me to rest with and among them—but other than that, my schedule adapts to fit the needs and blessings of our high-spirited and high-energy little community.

One of the blessed anchors in my life is my Tuesday morning Bible study meeting. Several local ministers meet in a little coffee shop downtown over mugs of coffee and hot tea to discuss the scripture passages that some of us will be using on the upcoming Sunday morning. We also talk about what’s going on in our lives and where we’re feeling renewed and where we’re feeling drained. These gracious folks provide comfort and encouragement with one hand and loving challenge with the other.

One Tuesday morning when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the many needs our beloved are/were facing downtown, I lamented to my brothers and sisters: “it seems that every step we take toward long-term care options for our chronically homeless brothers and sisters takes forever.” Shaking my head, I continued: “We’ll have a few more options in place by the fall, but winter is coming. And fast.”

You see, winter is a plague among our beloved who lack shelter and must depend upon the hospitality of me and you. Even mild Virginia winters have cold, cold nights and there are only so many legal places to find shelter on those bone-chilling nights. One of those blessed friends who I share coffee with every Tuesday morning is Meredith Williams, the priest at one of our partner congregations, Ascension Lutheran Church on Main St. in Danville. She turned to me that morning while my mind worried over future frost and flurries and asked if there was something that Ascension could do to help.

I mentioned that last fall we had put together “Urban Survival Bags” packed with warm clothes, winter-rated sleeping bags, refillable toiletries, information about local care organizations and shelter options, and a wealth of items you would want/need if you had to sleep outside some cold night. With casual grace, Meredith insisted that this was something that her folks would be glad to do. So, we conspired together to gather on a Thursday night in August around a common feast with a common hope for our beloved downtown.

In a matter of weeks, donations began pouring in from the good folks at Ascension. Soon, a local Lutheran body made a financial grant to buy whatever items weren’t donated. On a Thursday night in August, the good folks of Ascension hosted our weekly and open community meal. The homeless, near-homeless, poor, and addicted gathered together in a Lutheran fellowship hall around hamburgers, hot dogs, and fresh, local watermelon with their Lutheran brothers and sisters. The bread and the cup were passed and the Kingdom was proclaimed in our midst.

Urban survival bags were packed—not because these are a long-term solution, but because sometimes progress moves slow and makes room for beloved partners to join us in advocating for the least of these our brothers and sisters. As we shared stories around common tables, laughed at each other’s jokes, and prayed for each other’s broken places, we held back those visions of frosted windows for a little while and relished the warmth of hospitality offered in unanticipated places and in beautiful partnerships.

Winter is coming, but so is our Lord and He joins us together with others to create places of warmth and hospitality. Places of rest and shelter and places of transformation through common service.

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