Update: My letter was printed in the Sarnia Observer on Wednesday April 1, 2009.
Dan McCaffery of The Observer in Sarnia wrote a short little piece in the Observer yesterday. Unfortunately, I think all of our churches (ours included) are a little too busy with our own projects of creativity, building projects, “ministries”, programs, services, fellowship times, Christian movies and prayer meetings to really care about the poor. So I submitted a satirical piece to the editor today, not sure if they will publish it or not. I pasted the entire article by Dan below (because the Observer takes their posts down after seven days which couldn’t be more annoying) and I put my response below it.
It’s time for Sarnia’s churches to get together and help River City Vineyard provide emergency beds for the homeless.
River City has been operating a shelter for a couple of years now, much to the chagrin of some neighbours of the Mitton Street facility.
There are those who feel the shelter lowers property values by bringing destitute people into their midst. In reality, there have been few problems, but perception means a lot when you’re trying to sell your house.
City hall is concerned, too, because River City does not have the zoning it needs to provide such a service. It has been getting by with a temporary rezoning that’s set to expire in June.
Pastor George Esser says he doesn’t believe his group needs the municipality’s permission to keep operating because River City is a church. As such, it has the right to offer people sanctuary, he says.
I would go further than that. I’d say Christian churches have a duty to help the poor. That’s what the message of Jesus Christ was all about.
Of course our churches do a lot now. They do everything from collecting toys for needy kids at Christmas to sending money overseas to help battle poverty in the Third World.
But when it comes to providing beds for the homeless, River City is carrying the ball by itself.
In at least nine other Ontario cities that’s not the case. There are so-called ‘Out of the Cold’ programs in which homeless people move from church to church to seek shelter. In other words, no one church has to do it all. And no one neighbourhood finds itself the permanent home of a controversial shelter.
If a dozen churches were involved, each one could offer a place for the needy to stay for a month at a time.
It’s something to think about.
— Dan McCaffery
And my reply.
Your call for churches to share their facilities with River City’s Harbour Inn outreach by creating their own “Out of the Cold” programs does not take into account all the other things that churches do in the city and is too idealistic.
The Christian church of Sarnia is currently occupied with planning $2,000,000 building projects, Gospel by the Bay, Sunday morning Church Services, and screening Christian movies to serve our own needs better and fulfill our desires for frivolous entertainment.
Jesus said that “the poor will always be with us” which trumps all other (300 or so) verses that tell us to take care of the poor and needy. I’m pretty sure it says somewhere in the Good Book that our obligation each week as Christians is to plan church services, collect money in buckets (while conveniently receiving a tax receipt) for our building fund and missionaries abroad, and invigorate other Christians to do it all again next Sunday.
Our hard earned funds and volunteer hours would dry up if we did what River City does. Also, who would pay for the expensive items that would be stolen from our building and our SUV’s? What would happen to our children’s innocence being around these dirty and immoral people? And heaven help us, what if the homeless people don’t show their gratitude by accepting Jesus Christ as their personal saviour?! Our efforts will have been in vain.
I’m pretty sure The Bible also says somewhere; “God only helps those that help themselves”. These people are in their current situation because of their own doing. See Dan, what you don’t understand is that all the poor people in Sarnia are poor because they choose to be poor.
River City is just playing their part and we play our role just fine. How dare you tell us what Jesus is all about?! What would you know about Jesus anyway?
Just leave us alone and let us do what Jesus has called us to. When those poor people smarten up, stop being needy and really possess a desire to get their lives cleaned up, then maybe they can show up on a Sunday morning (as long as they look presentable). They can sing our songs and let our pastor…I mean Jesus, shape them into the person that he really wants them to be.
Your call for churches to help out is sadly misguided. Jesus and the church are obviously only out to help those who prove to us that they need it and deserve it; people like me.