Letter to the Editor About Churches Banding Together

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.

14 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor About Churches Banding Together”

  1. Interesting, we are in the reverse situation, with local churches showing real support for our involvement in the downtown core…

    Re: XP you can mail me at [email protected]. I no longer have full access to my desktop system since the installation expired last night. But if I don’t have to do a full new install now would be great. I can boot in safe mode…

  2. Okay, I read both Dan’s column and your reply. Show me where in the bible that it says that “Got only helps those that help themselves.” Is God going to forsake someone just ’cause they don’t know how to help themselves, or maybe they are in a position where they can’t help themselves? As far as I know, God loves all his children, whether they are able to provide for themselves or not. Some people just aren’t able to do it as well as others. It is NOT our place to judge.

    With the economy as bad as it is, I can’t believe that you would say that “all the poor people in Sarnia are poor because they choose to be poor.” Yeah right. Because the people in Sarnia chose to lose their jobs or get laid off? Because people chose to save their money while still working, and once they lost their jobs, and couldn’t find another one, they chose to use their savings to live until it was gone, and now they don’t have a choice but to be without.

    Yes, the poor will always be with us, but God gave us the best example of how to handle the poor when he opened his arms and fed, and took care of them. He did NOT tell them to “smarten up, stop being needy”.

    I am thankfully in a position where I still have a job, but there are MANY in Canada and the U.S. that don’t have that option as THOUSANDS of jobs are being lost every day. Even my job could be lost at any given moment. Just pick up any newspaper or any search any news website, and you will see how bad it is out there. NOT all people that are poor are poor because they chose to be. Some had misfortune hit them, and they didn’t have a way to stop it

    I do understand that churches out there in the community may not have the funds or resources to help out with Rivercity’s shelter, but to have such a harsh opinion and to tell people to leave you alone… what kind of a “Christian image” is that? As far as I’m concerned, that’s the direct opposite of what God would want. Didn’t God open his arms wide open and embrace the people with diseases, the sick, the poor, the lonely, the ones without, the poorly dressed, the ones that didn’t necessarily fit in? THAT would be true Christianity as far as I’m concerned. I don’t understand why anyone would think otherwise.

    In closing, I want to let you know that I had thought of coming out to your service to see what it was all about as I’m currently hoping to find a new church family, but after such a view… it won’t happen. I am very saddened to hear that you are so close minded. I really hope that that reply in the paper doesn’t turn people off of Christianity more than what they already are.

  3. Just in case Kelly didn’t catch on, Nathan’s letter was trying to be deliberately over the top and the opposite of what he believes to hopefully show others how foolish their objections are to this kind of work.

    In fact, Nathan is actively involved organizing and encouraging families at his church to join with River City’s efforts.

  4. Just so everyone is aware. Kelly and I had a conversation over e-mail where I was able to clarify my intentions. She was ok with me leaving up the post, because it might help if other people miss the satirical leanings as she did. Thanks for being open Kelly!

  5. Nathan – great posting. I saw your letter to the editor in the paper.

    As a non-believer, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
    (Though I wouldn’t claim it to be satire.)

    However, I applaud people, like yourself, for suggesting and supporting change from within.

  6. Nicely done, Nathan. Your words have sparked some discussion in our church as well… now for the action part…

  7. Mark McLaughlin

    Yea Nathan, nicely done.

    With a chip on your shoulder and lack of discernment you managed to rip the the Christian Church of Sarnia using a secular media outlet for all the unbelievers of Sarnia to witness and laugh at. Great job!

    Here is a suggestion. Instead of judging every other Christian in Sarnia with your narrow agenda (which apparently nobody else gets), maybe just focus on your tiny niche in the downtown core struggling with poverty and not sabotage everyone elses efforts to reach the rest of non-believing Sarnia.

    I hope the pastor of The Story, Joe, will have the wisdom to sit you down and either tell you to find yourself in quiet or cut you loose.

    Im a member of the church that has supported Joe Manafos church plant and is making your mortgage happen at the Story, and we are also one of the churches in your letter that all we do, as you so foolishly put it, is 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.

    For your sake, I hope this keeps happening each week or The Story might not have such a happy ending. Anyone that loves Jesus does not wish that, including myself.

    And finally, thats great that you cleared up Kellys confusion (03/31/09 @ 19:34 )on your rant by emailing her, way to go. As for the remaining cynics and unbelievers that were confused over your garbage, please leave it to The Christian Church of Sarnia to clean up the rest of your mess.

    Mark McLaughlin.

  8. Nathan,
    Mark makes a great point (Commandment 11 – right after “Thou shalt not boil a goat in its mother’s milk”) – “Thou salt not dissent”. Or was he talking about Commandment 12? “Thou shalt not have thoughts of your own.”

    Nathan, you’re far tot bright for these faithheads – we welcome you to the side of reason whenever you’re ready.

    Mark, congratulations on showing how a true Christian feels about caring people who are trying to make this place a better place.

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