homeless

Arrests and Re-member-ing: Maundy Thursday

Posted by Autumn Dennis 

I have been to several Maundy Thursday services over the years, but tonight’s service struck a very different chord for me than in the past. For the past few nights, homeless advocates in Nashville have gathered alongside homeless friends in camps around the city. Metro Police have threatened to raid the camps, and there have been recent instances where camps have been set ablaze by police. All day, I have waited to hear word or any sort of report on the state and condition of my friends in the camps. I have followed their posts and updates of staying awake in shifts to keep watch–to keep each other safe.

It is no coincidence that these night watches and raids fall on Holy Week. On this Maundy Thursday, these night watches are incredibly reminiscent of the disciples keeping watch with Jesus through the night as he waits for arrest–our homeless friend Jesus, who had no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58). Just as Jesus is unjustly arrested, our friends on the streets are unjustly arrested for the crime of existing.

Do this in remembrance of me.

Tonight, as I sat in a Maundy Thursday service at Edgehill United Methodist Church, I meditated heavily on what it means to remember and see Jesus. Maundy Thursday is not only when we recall Jesus’s arrest, but also the institution of the Holy Eucharist as the central liturgy for Jesus’s friends and followers. When Jesus broke the bread and blessed the cup, he said to “do this as often as you can in remembrance of me.” My Latin is a little bit rusty, but the word “remember” always stirs up images of body limbs being stitched back together. To re-member. In the United Methodist tradition, we understand communion elements to not be the literal body and blood of Christ, but that Christ is present in the elements and in the act of communion. In our liturgy before we partake of the sacrament, we declare the mystery of faith:

In remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died;
Christ is risen;
Christ will come again.

Tonight, I got chills when we proclaimed the mystery of faith. In that very room, by the gathering of people of faith for the purpose of re-membering the body of Christ, Christ rose in that room. Every time we gather to partake of the holy meal, Christ comes again and again. The body of Christ is stitched back together as we share the bread and wine. The disciples saw Jesus in the breaking of the bread. As Dorothy Day wrote:

We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know [God] in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship. We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. (The Long Loneliness)

Whether people of faith are gathered around an altar or a fire in an “illegal” encampment, we re-member Jesus in each other. Even when the powers and principalities continue to arrest Jesus through our friends over and over again, Jesus is risen again and again through the most beautiful act of resistance– community. We are not alone anymore. We are all walking the road to the cross, to the tomb, to the road to Emmaus, together. Jesus needs our company on this long night, to keep watch and pray. Pray and care for your friends on the streets and in camps this night. Amen.

Image

Photo by Lauren Plummer

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Trembling for Transformation, Confessing for Justice: Reflections on the Disaster in Haiti

By Andrew Krinks (Originally published in The Contributor, Issue 23, February 2010)

[Photos by TJ McCloud]

When first confronted with the devastating reality of the events which took place in Haiti on January 12th, it was difficult to know what sort of sound to utter first. Truth be told, bombarded as we are by what so often turn out to be nothing more than ‘pseudo-events’—manufactured “news” that sells but cultivates no redeeming conversation or transformation—I am cautious about investing myself too heavily in the headlines of the day. But hearing the unspeakable numbers in the initial reports that Tuesday evening (45,000 to 50,000 dead), allowing them to settle first in the ear, then in the heart, and sensing the heavy timbre of the news reporters’ voices, it wasn’t long before the gravity of the situation became clear.

Since that first night, when tens of thousands of Haitians were killed immediately, and when tens of thousands more already-poor Haitians became instantly homeless, the situation has only grown worse. Only a week later, the number of expected dead has risen into the hundreds of thousands as much-needed aid coming from around the world is forced through the narrow bottleneck at the Port-au-Prince air and sea ports, leaving untold masses of hungry, homeless, injured, and dying Haitians in frantic waiting. Meanwhile, the time for finding any trapped persons still alive in the wreckage is now all but passed.

The stories coming from various news sources have colored the situation painfully dire: the lone family member wandering collapsed concrete jungles in search of lost loved ones; the bed-ridden hospital patient whose family hasn’t shown up since the earthquake struck; the mass graves of unclaimed dead in a country where funeral rites are among the most sacred; the newly-risen shantytowns with S.O.S. signs pleading for help—but with no help whatsoever available; the portable medical clinics abandoned by U.N. workers due to safety protocol, leaving patients to wait in pain with a lone news reporter looking on; the men and women with open wounds and broken bones pleading outside the Doctors Without Borders tent-clinics to be seen, while the doctors themselves wait with empty hands for supplies to be shipped in; and the list is literally—maddeningly—endless. Even as aid and its distribution is established more effectively in Haiti, the task of full restoration will remain a serious challenge for a long, long time.

And though they will forever remain faceless and nameless to the rest of the world, we can imagine those who live on the margins of an already-marginalized country. We can try to imagine their loneliness in this hour—as well as the loneliness of those on the outskirts of the city’s center where the quake struck, those who will receive aid last. We can try as best we can to imagine their plight, but in cases such as these, our imaginations will fail to apprehend the depth of the desperation at hand.

And so I am still asking myself: what words are there to utter in such moments? At least for a time, silence may be our only means of a reverent, compassionate articulation—the space between our words meaning more than the words themselves in such situations. But if, after our stunned silence, words should come, a good question to ask ourselves before we speak is: are they words which could be uttered in the presence of a mother weeping outside her demolished home where her children are trapped inside? Are they words which could be offered to the upturned face of a young man searching the stacks of bodies strewn along the road for members of his family? If we have faith enough, we will allow ourselves to tremble before such a grave task, to be haunted by the humanity of Haitians both living and dead, to sympathize, to suffer with those caught in the grip of death. If we have faith enough, we will find the courage to keep from looking away—not out of a captivated voyeurism, but out of a deep welling within us that longs for healing to come quickly.

If, on the other hand, we wish to see what should happen when we fail to get on our knees before such devastation, we need look no further than our well-known televangelists and political commentators, who, rather than aligning their speech with the depth of suffering at hand, have responded in the pitiful strain of men too afraid to enter with their whole hearts and minds the plight of their neighbors. But really, who can blame them? After all, it’s a great deal easier to speculate from a distance on the metaphysical causes of suffering and its foreseeable effects than it is to face suffering head on, to reach out—whether literally or imaginatively—and touch it with one’s own hands. But this is no easy task, for there is safety in separation, but danger in intimacy; clarity in autonomy, but confusion in vulnerability; comfort in averting the grief that comes with standing face to face with tragedy, injustice, and death, but bitter pain in stepping into it.

Now of course, to simply watch the news or read the detailed reports of the hellish aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake is not to fully embody the suffering of our Haitian neighbors. And yet, something sacred takes place when we allow ourselves to be afflicted by the affliction of others. As people of various forms of hope and faith believe, suffering is the site of God’s breaking into our world—whether through the restlessness of exile and oppression or the sheer violence and emptiness of the cross. Furthermore, in both the Hebrew and New Testament scriptures, we learn that to entertain the stranger, the orphan, the widow, the marginalized—those who suffer—is to entertain God himself. The void of suffering and oppression is where the divine is made manifest. Indeed, it is a major paradox of life and faith that there can only be hope and healing once we have passed through this darkness. There are even those who would suggest that the darkness itself is precisely where we discover the divine, not just on the other side of it. If this is true, then far from being absent, we can trust, though it may seem impossible, that the spirit of God is at work in Haiti. Indeed, as a country that has long suffered the darkness of oppression, we can be sure that God, whoever s/he may be, was there long before the earthquake, and remains there today—in both the bloodied hands and feet of Haitian victims and in those hands and feet that work to mend them.

*     *     *

I recently attended a prayer and lament service for the victims of Haiti’s earthquake. There is a rich legacy within the various faith traditions in which lamenting and crying out to God against needless suffering and death is understood as an act of deep faith. From the Psalms of Hebrew scripture (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) to God himself, in Jesus of Nazareth, echoing the same words of abandonment at the moment of his own death, the cry of lament is an important one to people of faith. For to ask God “how could you let this happen?” is not to turn one’s back to God but to face him head on in the passion of grief, in the yearning for things to be made right. Furthermore, the act of crying out in prayer and tears against needless suffering and injustice has the strange tendency of compelling our hands and feet to move towards actually mending the wounds at hand, toward concrete acts of mercy that give way to justice. Indeed, it might even be said that one can only work to alleviate the plight of their neighbors after they have first acknowledged and then stood in the presence of that neighbor long enough to be shaken by their plight. As the best of our prophets, ancient and contemporary alike, teach us, we can only begin the process of restoration and healing after we have first taken the time to kneel before the darkness of suffering and grief, allowing it to send its terrible tremor through our very bones.

So when the time of prayer and lament at the aforementioned service changed abruptly near its close to jubilant praise and worship, something didn’t feel quite right. It seemed hurried, inappropriate. I couldn’t help but imagine the battered, newly-homeless, already-poor victims of Haiti’s earthquake sitting next to me in the pew. How would these songs strike them, I wondered? Could they find it in them to sing along to these hope-filled words with wounds still so fresh? Could they feasibly wrap their minds around anything other than the terror of the present moment? Though there are certainly those Haitians (a historically resilient and deeply religious people) of such peculiarly strong faith that praise and thanksgiving have been their first response, it is difficult to comprehend such jubilant singing while death still abounds so recklessly. So because I could not help that night but keep my mind fixed upon Haitians deep in the midst of suffering, my longing for a deeper solidarity with them trumped any urge to sing my way to hope too quickly. But bitter lament and mournful solidarity with those suffering now does not mean that singing will not come. On the contrary, voices will be lifted and praise will be offered—but only in time.

While I certainly don’t condemn my brothers and sisters who are blessed to be capable of such a hope-filled posture in the midst of tragedy, I would urge that in moments such as these, we resist the tendency to hurry so quickly from the darkness of grief and anxiety; for if we attempt to avert the grief of suffering, the relief and ‘hope’ we rush toward on the other side lies in serious danger of functioning as little more than a farce. Though the person of faith can have no faith without the hope of restoration and renewal, there are times when we must have faith so deep that we trust that our acts of grief and suffering—long as they sometimes last—will, in fact, be the very means by which we are transformed and energized, rather than seeking to escape or short-circuit their brutality. With time, hope comes, and singing, and renewal. But if, in our fear of the void, we skip over grieving, the hope which does come may be insufficient in bringing about a lasting transformation. For grief and healing do not exist in separate spheres but on the very same continuum, as one gives way to the other over and over again in the various deaths and births of life—even now, even in Haiti.

We may say, then, that there can be no transformation without first trembling at the loneliness, the terror of suffering. This is a task far easier said than done, but, especially for those of us who will not encounter the actual suffering firsthand, it is important that we engage in the best solidarity we can muster: not looking hurriedly ahead to hope in such a way that we forget to address the hurt which is taking place right now. For the hurt which is taking place right now, far from being a lightning bolt of divine judgment against a deserving people, is the result of a dark history in which human power has forced an entire nation of people into a posture of economic, social, and geopolitical weakness. As many writers and journalists have pointed out in the last few weeks, had this earthquake struck a better-developed civilization (as they have in recent history), the death and destruction would have been substantially less desperate.

Thanks be to God, the overwhelming response from all corners of the globe has seen millions upon millions of dollars poured out in support of those organizations working on the ground in Haiti to mend the medical, architectural, infrastructural, and spiritual wounds there. This charitable giving is one hundred percent indispensible; without it, Haiti would be in far worse condition than it already is. It is also crucial that those on the ground be as well-organized as humanly possible, and that they act quickly in this time of desperate need. But there is an oft-unrecognized danger inherent to such charitable giving—namely that, in our immediate flood of compassion, an unacknowledged past will give way to history repeated.

It is for this reason, then, that we may make another claim: there can be no justice without confession. But what is there to acknowledge, and what to confess? Haiti is often referred to as ‘the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.’ But one does not have to be an economist, or even a Marxist, however, to understand that such poverty does not simply come about as the result of poor choices on the part of its citizens or even by supposedly corrupt leaders (or by deals with the devil), but by all manner of colonial and imperialist actions on the part of the world’s superpowers, as well as by complex and finely-nuanced systems of economic domination. To be certain, the devil is not far from such activity—only not in the way folklore legends propounded by televangelists would have us understand it.

The following, though only cursory, are among some of the details which must be acknowledged. Starting with the landing of European colonizers in the 15th century to French colonial occupation in the 18th century, up through a United States invasion of Haiti in the early 20th century, the country has existed, in some form or another, under the thumb of foreign powers for centuries. Following its slave rebellion and subsequent independence in the late 18th century (after the example of other newly independent nations), Haiti has been mired by corruption from both within and without: ‘within’ because its various leaders and dictators have played a role in the country’s poverty and mass killings of certain segments of the population; ‘without’ because many of those leaders were installed by way of internationally sponsored coups and invasions.

To illustrate, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, once a Catholic priest who endorsed liberation theologies which favored the uplifting of the poor and destitute, first elected in 1990, was ousted from the presidency by members of his own government and flown into exile only a year after his inauguration. In 1994, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter helped arrange to have Aristide re-instated as president. Then, in 2000, after the intermittent presidency of now-current President René Préval, Aristide was re-elected, only to be removed four years later by way of a paramilitary coup/kidnapping, this time by U.S. Marine forces.

In the six years since then, Haiti has been stricken with terrible political instability and turmoil, the result, in no small part, of the evolution of a global market whose policies have left the nation on the underside of the rest of the world’s prosperity. For instance, foreign investment in the area of agriculture has resulted in the pushing of rural farmers into overcrowded hillside and village slums and shantytowns, unable to support themselves with the work they once depended upon for survival. Furthermore, foreign trade and world market arrangements are such that Haiti’s destitution and impotence in regards to bettering its own situation by enabling its own people to prosper are scandalously frozen in place without any sign of change.

The United Nations has also been a felt presence in recent years with a mission described as one of peacekeeping, but which, it has been argued, serves, in effect, only to pacify violence without building up or developing the nation either economically or politically. In addition, many of those U.N. nations now so generously sending an impressive array of resources also happen to be the same countries that have consistently denied Haiti the opportunity to receive the sort of long-term aid that would help build up the country’s economy and infrastructure—an infrastructure now so poorly-developed that an earthquake that elsewhere would have caused minimal damage has in Haiti directly contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Statistics also show that 75% of Haitians live on less than $2.00 a day. As a result, shantytowns and slums abound in the inner cities, whose shoddy architectural designs are in no small part responsible for the ever-growing death toll in the wake of the earthquake. As a number of people working with these socio-political circumstances in Haiti have pointed out, this socio-economic arrangement, and the massive death and injury which have resulted from it, is neither natural nor just.

While our current aid efforts are more than indispensible, if we do not first acknowledge these historical realities and confess our complicity in their perpetuation, then Haiti will be mired in a charity which offers relief and saves lives, but does little to nourish the likelihood of renewed, sustainable human flourishing across the nation in the years to come. Sending money and resources to begin mending the destruction in Haiti is entirely necessary and crucial. But if we are to think along the lines of long-term development in the aftermath of the quake, charity is akin, in the well-worn metaphor, to ‘giving a man a fish.’ Justice, on the other hand, has a two-fold task. First, it is to teach a man how to fish: empower him to know how to use the resources at hand to make his and his community’s flourishing a very real and achievable possibility. But when the context within which this man stands at the river with a fishing pole is such that even a new skill set can’t ward off his poverty and oppression, then we are confronted with the second task: to go upstream to figure out who’s contaminating the river. Who are they and why have they been allowed to do it for so long? What part have I played in creating a world in which such actions go unnoticed or without reprimand? What sort of sickness is it that keeps us from looking after our neighbors? What will we do to redeem and reform this situation?

If international leaders will allow it, the devastation of this situation can give birth to a situation in which past oppression can be reversed and redeemed. But in order for this sort of justice to be born, it is crucial that our acts of confession and acknowledgement be followed by a deliberately weak posture of giving aid. To put it another way, if a more holistic flourishing is to unfold in Haiti in the aftermath of this tragedy, it will be the result of others coming under their Haitian neighbors, rather than over them. It will be the result of compassionate neighbors working with the people of Haiti to help build a more sustainable and well-nourished country—not by giving hand-out after hand-out, but by listening and allowing themselves to be vulnerable to the complex needs of a long-oppressed people.

*     *     *

The French philosopher-mystic-activist Simone Weil writes that “affliction compels us to recognize as real what we do not think possible.” In the case of the tragedy in Haiti, those who are trapped in the heart of an all but collapsed country have been forced to recognize the fierce, unrelenting power of death. But for those of us whose affliction is only secondhand—an affliction borne of compassion for our Haitian brothers and sisters—the recognition of a reality we didn’t think possible ought also to be the recognition of a reality that has long existed but which, due to the conniving hand that writes history, we have hardly known. That reality is a dark one: colonial exploitation which has evolved into contemporary postcolonial and economic oppression all in the name of foreign trade, humanitarian ‘aid’, and U.N. protocol—‘laws’ which, in seeking to uphold justice, actually inhibit it. Because while the law intends to make justice possible, justice cannot be contained by man-made structures and codes. Justice is not a containable entity but an ever-unraveling event whose unfolding we are ever-welcomed to struggle for and celebrate. It is for this reason that our work with the newly-homeless population of Haiti ought not look like the law, whose impotence allows for those working in the name of justice and charity to leave victims dying on stretchers because of safety protocol. Justice driven by love knows no bounds, and will likely seem reckless and dangerous to the rest of the world—but boundless love and justice are exactly what is needed in a crisis as dire as this one.

Along with that, it is crucial that the mending of wounds—both literal and figurative—in Haiti be not divorced from the sort of creative action and work that enables Haitians to emerge from the devastation newly-empowered to live in a way that makes human flourishing more possible in the long-term. The fostering of such livelihood can and must be nurtured at the local and individual level, but it is crucial first that those who have played a role in squelching the potential of such flourishing in Haiti come to the table with confession on their lips—confession to their complicity with a dark history of colonial rule and covert economic oppression. As for those leaders within Haiti who are partly to blame (God knows the web of responsibility is multi-faceted and extends beyond any single party), perhaps a confession from outside of their borders will create the space necessary for them to echo with the same in the name of a more honest future.

But the call to confession also resonates among those of us who are not politicians or foreign trade analysts or historians. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not asked better questions of our elected leaders and lauded business people. We have not asked how our acquisition of goods and wealth affects unseen others. We have not loved with our whole hearts those who live under the thumb of the principalities and powers, the spirits of darkness who are made flesh in history in the form of governments and economic institutions. We are complicit because we have not answered the cry of suffering with anything other than our indifference. May we take the time to tremble before—to lament—the devastating suffering in Haiti. For it is in trembling and lament that we are enabled to sympathize, to suffer with, more purely and wholly. Out of such sympathy and compassion, it is crucial that time and money, knowledge and resources are poured toward those in need.

But the task does not end there. If the world community’s current acts of mending in the country of Haiti are to have a lasting effect, more of us must confess, must witness to, our complicity in a history which has led to the devastatingly immediate collapse of an entire country—not just homes and national infrastructure, but human lives—in the hope that such a confession will act as a redeeming light in an especially dark moment. For the person of faith knows that the suffering of death is not the final word. But another, better word can only ever be encountered if we first open ourselves to the shaping, the purging, the redeeming night of suffering, out of which life inevitably comes. Likewise, the person of faith knows that injustice is not the final word. But another, better word can only ever be encountered if we first acknowledge and confess our justice-inhibiting actions before those we have wronged, while taking steps to work with those who now suffer in such a way that when humanitarian aid workers leave, the country no longer looks like it has for centuries, but instead is equipped to flourish and thrive uninhibited by the invisible hand of economic oppression.

Thanks be to God, such confession and witness makes possible—after the necessary time of grieving and trembling—an even greater confession and witness, namely that of restoration and resurrection, even out of the midst of a tragedy as grave as the one which continues to unfold this very hour in the country of Haiti.

The Dark Side of Nashville’s Winter Wonderland

by Lindsey Krinks

Somewhere, not far from here, a child played in patches of snow and college students sledded down ice-encased hillsides. Somewhere, not far from here, a couple sat beside their fireplace, sipping hot chocolate and watching white crystal fluff drift to the ground. But somewhere, not far from here, a man commanded his numb feet to march to shelter to find food and warmth. And somewhere, not far from here, a couple shivered in their hidden tent, watching the last bit of their propane evaporate into thin, bitter air.

For over a week, the temperatures in Nashville lingered below freezing and the nights were dangerously cold—so cold that over 50 water mains across Davidson County froze and cracked; so cold that Public Works spread hundreds of tons of salt, brine, and even beet juice over Nashville’s roads to ward off ice. The cold spell even caught the attention of Mayor Karl Dean who asked the city’s Office of Emergency Management, Red Cross, Metro PD, churches, nonprofits, and outreach workers to work together to help the homeless community get indoors and out of the cold. Thanks to so many people working together in a coordinated effort, lives were saved and compassion and mercy became the tangible realities of warmth, sustenance, and comfort for the weary.  For many of us, however, that meant long days and late nights.

 The snow started here on Thursday, January 7th. On Wednesday, the Red Cross set up an emergency warming station and overflow shelter at Mt. Bethel Baptist Church for the homeless community, local churches opened their doors to take more people through Room in the Inn, the Nashville Rescue Mission extended its capacity, and homeless outreach teams coordinated a plan to go out every evening and find the stragglers—the dozens of homeless individuals who didn’t have the wherewithal to come indoors on their own, who would rather freeze than go to one of the city’s larger shelters or have been banned or barred from their quarters.

 Each night, our homeless outreach team met to divide the city into manageable quadrants and load our cars with warm socks, gloves, jackets, sleeping bags, and emergency blankets for those who refused to come in. Then we set out to weave our cars in and out of the city’s salt-drenched roads until midnight. With the help of McKendree Church, Woodland Presbyterian, and Otter Creek, we were able to open our own alternative shelters where we could bring the individuals who, for various reasons, were unable to stay in the larger shelters. Our friends who live in a community house also took in two homeless couples and a dog from Wednesday to Sunday night.

 From 6:00pm to 12:00am each evening, we picked up dozens of our friends on the streets—the handicapped, intoxicated, mentally troubled, kind hearted, quiet, rambling, dirty, broken, beautiful individuals who wouldn’t have otherwise come in. Despite a quote from the Mission in a Tennessean article on January 5th warning people not to pass sleeping bags and warm coats out to people on the streets, we gave dozens out, which may have very well saved the lives of some of our friends.

 Since December, two homeless individuals have frozen to death and our friend Kevin at Tent City fell into his fire and burned. My heart is heavy for our friends who do not welcome the snow, who do not get snow days off, who do not sit by their fireplace with hot chocolate. Their toes and fingertips go numb first, then their entire feet and hands. Their noses run, their faces blush with windburn, their lips crack and chap. They warm themselves in gas stations where they are not welcome and on street grates that blast warm air. These are our brothers and sisters who wander without a particular destination, without a place to call home.

 Gone are my romantic views of the snow; I have seen the suffering it brings. This is not a call, however, to feel guilty about enjoying the snow, but rather a call to be aware of the needs of those who can’t enjoy it. No longer can we shirk the responsibility of caring for our brothers and sisters on the streets to the government, nonprofits, or even our own congregations. Homelessness is a human issue, perpetuated by humans—you and me—who buy into a warped, idolatrous vision of society which bails out the wealthy and overlooks the poor; who fail to imagine what Jubilee economics would look like here and now; who domesticate the warnings of the prophets and the teachings of Jesus. So every day, make choices that bring life, “practice resurrection” as Wendell Berry would say, and for God’s sake, when emergencies happen, whether in Haiti or in our own back yards, respond with prayer and respond with concrete action.

 Lives were saved because countless people across Nashville took responsibility and acted during the cold weather spell. Let’s not simply wait for another emergency to act, but let’s work together today to alleviating human suffering while also working toward the vision of creating a more peaceful and just local (and global) community where everyone has their basic needs met and is able to recognize their dignity and worth.

 As for us, we are outreach workers and followers of Christ. We are tired, our work is never done, but we have hope. We long for a day of rest, but know that even when we get rest, our friends on the streets do not. They are too busy surviving, too busy commanding their numb feet to march to warmth, too busy building campfires and hunting propane tanks and food that will warm the flesh on their cold, tired bones.

 As the Latin American prayer reads, “Lord, to those who hunger, give bread. And to those who have bread, give the hunger for justice.”

Celebrating INTERDEPENDENCE Day

Jesus washing foot

On July 4th, Amos House and friends will take part in a celebration. Rather than celebrating “Independence Day”, however, we will be celebrating, with others around the country and world, “Interdependence Day”.

As we all know, Independence Day is a “holy” day in the American liturgy, a self-defining moment in the national narrative. For those of us who take seriously the claim that the crucified, risen, suffering servant Jesus of Nazareth is Lord over all things, Independence Day is an interesting day, to say the least. What does it mean that we are citizens of a kingdom brought into being through a Jewish subversive executed by the Roman Empire two thousand years ago? Where does our ultimate citizenship lie? What conflicts arise between our various citizenships? How ought we—a community of faithful—bear witness to a better way in a culture that glorifies not only violence, but independence from other human beings?

The best way we know to celebrate on July 4th is to bear witness to our interdependence—on God, and on one another. Visit our “Events” page to see more on how we’ll be celebrating. All are welcome. Feel free to email us if you want to join in on the celebration.

NOTE: We’ll begin at the park across from the Nashville Public Library at 3:30 p.m. by washing one another’s feet, and the feet of our homeless sisters and brothers.

(Also, here’s a link that tells how others will be celebrating Interdependence Day)

Peace,

Amos House Community

Convention Sinners or Housing Saints?: Broadening the Discussion on a New Convention Center

Music City CenterIf you live in Nashville, you’ve likely heard discussion on the construction of a brand new convention center downtown. The land was recently purchased by the city on borrowed money–before deciding whether or not they’ll definitely build it.

There has been both support and opposition for a new convention center, but few, if any, of the considerations coming from either side have taken into account the livelihood of our sisters and brothers living on the street.

Street News Service recently posted an article Amos House wrote for Nashville’s homeless street paper, The Contributor. In it, we try to broaden the discussion on a new convention center so that its impact on the homeless population is brought, for once, into focus. You can read it here: “Convention Sinners or Housing Saints?”