Life and Religion
|Spreading the spirit of giving to the homeless|
|The Park Church with Room in the Inn initiative|
|Published Thursday, December 14, 2017 8:20 am|
|PHOTO | THE PARK CHURCH|
|The Park Church has participated in Room in the Inn, a homeless outreach initiative, for 18 years.|
The Park Church acts as bridge for the community.
From December-March, the church provides shelter to the homeless through an initiative known as Room in the Inn. They joined the movement in 1999, which Urban Ministries began in 1996.
“This will be our 18th season as a host church for Room in the Inn,” said Kim Morrison, minister of outreach at The Park Church. “Urban Ministries is the mothership of the Room in the Inn program. They reached out to churches in the area during that time to find out who would be willing to provide shelter and space for our homeless neighbors in our city during the time of year that we experience the most severe weather.”
Church members bring the homeless in on a Friday evening and over several hours, volunteers serve meals while sharing the gospel. Barbers throughout the community offer haircuts as well. Those staying at the church also have the opportunity to shower before they return Uptown the following day. The church provides them with a bagged lunch prior to drop off.
“We want to be a part of their story,” Morrison said. “We’re sharing the gospel with them, and we’re sharing relationships with them sitting at the table talking with them. It’s a collaborative effort. We connect with others in our community to make Room in the Inn be a great program for us. We have barbers who donate their time, and come in after they’ve been cutting hair all day in their regular schedule, and come in during the evening to provide haircuts for our guests at no charge to us. Those are very important partnerships that help us make Room in the Inn what it is.”
Room in the Inn allows them to connect with people who otherwise would not have gone to church, which can have a transformative effect.
“I was able to make this transformation happen in my life as a result of being present at The Park Church, and in the midst of people who genuinely love and care about me, and I may not have ever felt that before,” Morrison said. “We want our guests to know that they indeed are our guests. We treat them as guests, and while they are in our presence, if they don’t feel anything else, we want them to feel the love that we have for them, and the love that God has for them through us.”
Morrison’s experience with the initiative continues to reveal the ministry’s impact on the city.
“Our guests frequently ask to come to our church,” she said. “We have a whole lot of guests who frequently come back, because of the authenticity of what we offer to them by way of our sharing and caring for them while we have them.”
Fundamental to that success comes from merely listening to the homeless.
“The most important thing is just listening to them,” Morrison said. “Listening to what’s going on. Listening to the backdrop of their stories. We walk away strengthened and blessed, probably more than some of them leave us.”
Answering Urban Ministries’ call nearly 20 years ago has fostered transformative relationships that transcend the walls of the church.
“After that request from Urban Ministries, we looked at our space and said ‘yes. This is something we want to do as a church, not only looking at our space, but looking at the heart of church, and that is to be a bridge into the community,’” Morrison said. “Our pastor, Bishop Claude Alexander, has always been internally, as well as externally, first. We’ve always had a heart for our community. This is a way that we could put our hands to work that would benefit our community at-large. It’s not just about a stranger coming in. These are our brothers and sisters.”
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