A FAITHFUL CHURCH
A useful definition of “poverty” is “the extent to which an individual does without resources.”
A faithful church follows Jesus in caring for those who lack resources, whether they are financial, relational, emotional, mental, or spiritual.
With the self-sacrificial love of Jesus working its way in and through us, we are led to value others above ourselves. And we are therefore uniquely called and empowered to share everything we have been entrusted with for the genuine betterment of our community.
KEY VALUES IN ADDRESSING POVERTY
We at Christ Church, in our mission to “Love Jesus and love like Jesus in the world,” have focused our attention on particular areas in our city while keeping to our key values of 1) relationship within collaboration, 2) empowerment of individuals, and 3) sustainable outcomes for the long-term welfare of everyone involved.
For a community, an example of what this looks like is the multi-faceted economic, educational, and social development which our affiliated local missions partners (BDC, SOS, Cornerstone Prep) are involved with on a daily basis in Binghampton, and which Christ Church continues to support in important ways.
For individuals, an example is the provision of relief to those who come to us for help. This is the purpose our Benevolence ministry serves in providing snack/hygiene bags, bus passes and even assistance with utility bills, rent and the like on an approved case-by-case basis.
FROM RELIEF TO EMPOWERMENT
The need and responsibility we have for responding as best we can to provide relief for our neighbors in difficult circumstances will never cease. Ideally, however, any relief that we offer leads to a relationship with those we help. Within this relationship, what we can provide instead of only relief is empowerment—giving a hand-up out of a situation of poverty instead of only giving continuous handouts that leave our friends in an impoverished situation long-term.
This is well reflected in the way our ministry partner, Jacob’s Well, welcomes their neighbors in downtown/uptown Memphis. The weekly C.P.R. (Compassion Party on the Road) remains in need of servants who can give their time and presence on Wednesday nights to provide food, hygiene items and more to those who are homeless, talking with them, praying with them and inviting them to join the worshiping community at Jacob’s Well on Saturday nights.
The relief that Jacob’s Well offers has led to collaborative relationships within which people are connected to resources and are able to leave homelessness, poverty and addiction. Read Jimmy’s story, for example.
PROJECT: EMPOWER MEMPHIS NETWORK
At Christ Church, these two important factors of empowerment and collaboration have driven a vision, which has come together during the past year. This vision is of a development of Benevolence at Christ Church in a way that is faithful to God’s clear calling, his consistent leading, and his growing provision.
What is tentatively being called Project: Empower Memphis Network builds upon the foundation established by a team of Christ Church members led by Emily Rachiele. The goal is to respond to the urgent need of empowerment over relief alone and to do so through collaboration with not only those individuals who are helped, but also with churches in our city of all denominations who share the calling to follow Jesus in remembering the poor.
The ultimate goal of Project: Empower Memphis Network in connecting and collaborating with Memphis churches is to follow the model of the downtown Memphis Hospitality Hub (which works to alleviate homelessness) in establishing a center to focus on relieving poverty through empowering individuals.
The outcome of Project: Empower Memphis Network will be to:
- provide a welcoming space to practice genuine hospitality for our neighbors in need
- pool and expand resources with these partner churches for the betterment of the help we are able to offer in range, diversity, extent and quality
- make resources more readily available to people who come to us for help
- ensure immediate personal contact even if immediate assistance for the proposed need is not available
- deepen relationships with those seeking assistance
- foster the development of a more holistic and effective strategy at helping people move out of poverty into a well-resourced life
What if churches in Memphis work together so that whoever comes to us asking for resources to be handed out to them are given a hand-up in life, so that they no longer need to come asking for help in the first place?
We are convinced that this goal is attainable, but it is so substantial and significant that it cannot succeed as a project of Christ Church alone.
It can only prosper if it is a result of the body of Christ in Memphis working together as it should.
God is already honoring our attempts to be faithful as the body of Christ—not our attempts to advance the accomplishments and recognition of Christ Church, or even The United Methodist Church.
ROOM IN THE INN – MEMPHIS
Even as we seek as a church body to follow Jesus faithfully in responding to the needs of those in poverty, homelessness indeed remains a major problem in Memphis, as it does in so many other cities. The Hospitality Hub is just one of several organizations in our city that seek to reverse the pattern. However, many of our neighbors, even if they have a roof to sleep under, live in impoverished situations that largely resemble the ill effects of homelessness. Many of them are even teetering on the brink of being homeless themselves. This is why Project: Empower Memphis Network is such an important vision.
For those who are currently without homes, however, sometimes the need for momentary relief is just as urgent as the need for long-term empowerment. This is especially true during these dangerously cold winter months.
Room in the Inn – Memphis is a developing collaboration among churches in our city to open up church campus doors to approved guests who are homeless for an overnight stay. This is a prime opportunity for us to practice hospitality—love of stranger—that has been a hallmark of the church throughout the centuries.
Based on interest and involvement by several members of Christ Church, participating churches have invited us to partner with them in Room in the Inn – Memphis. Their campuses are already set up and available to host guests an additional night of the week—it just takes participation on the part of Christ Church members to make this happen. Check out this recent blog post for more information.
YOU ARE THE CHURCH
If you’re interested in joining the ongoing work of Benevolence, Project: Empower Memphis Network, Jacob’s Well, or joining the exploratory group about Christ Church’s involvement with Room in the Inn, you are the church–if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be because you are responding to the call, and you are giving of your time and resources. Your questions, thoughts, input, participation, and personality are needed and invited.
Log into InFellowship at CUMC and join the appropriate group to remain in contact with other Christ Church members in order to communicate about updates and to coordinate participation.
This April, we will again be holding Bridging the Gap in cooperation with Jacob’s Well. This experience from Friday night to Sunday morning offers a new visceral understanding of poverty and homelessness. Click here for more information and please consider joining us.
The Serving & Outreach staff are here to assist you as you respond to the ways God is calling you to be at work on behalf of those in poverty and homelessness in our city.
Contact Nathan Brasfield, firstname.lastname@example.org or 261-4386.