A Rector’s Notes article for February 18, 2019
We have definitely stepped up as a church community lately to help those in our community who are least and last among us.
Thank you to all who have been volunteering to serve at Winter’s Night. We have seen fluctuating attendance based on various needs, and our volunteers have been wonderful at holding this space open and available to all who need it. We have also received generous donations of food and offers for more, and we will continue to let you know of our needs. We still could use a few more overnight volunteers, so if you or someone you know would be good at this, just let me know!
Radical Love opened for dinner service at St. Stephen’s for the first time this past Wednesday, serving a wonderful dinner to those who are hungry (for food, for love, for company) in our very own Parish Hall. We are excited to see how this shift on Wednesdays enables the Radical Love program to grow and impact even more people (already we heard from a number of folks on Wednesday who were happy to have the meal here in Longview). Radical Love is always looking for volunteers to help with serving on Wednesday afternoons from 4pm-5:30pm.
We also have launched our official partnership with Babies In Need from All Saints Vancouver, and have stocked St. John’s hospital with their first round of supplies. This is a wonderful program and we look forward to seeing it make a large impact on the people of Cowlitz County. Also, if you have a truck or SUV, we could use you as a monthly supply runner (we would put a schedule together so it wouldn’t be every month).
In seeing our people jump head in to all of these new (or newly experienced) ministries, I’m struck with the concept of what it costs us to help others in our community. From where I am sitting, there is certainly a cost, the cost of donations, of time, of money, of energy and passion and emotion, but that cost seems to be secondary or unburdensome because of both the personal reward we experience in helping others and the knowledge that we do this because we should, because Christ taught us to, because it is good and right to hold up all of our siblings in creation in love.
Unfortunately, that realization that cost is secondary, that cost does not have to be burdensome, is not fully realized by many in our communities of Longview/Kelso/Cowlitz County. I have had the privilege of working side by side with so many convicted and caring people that it breaks my heart that others in our community would throw up barriers, would dismiss or diminish the need that is readily apparent in this region, would seem to derive joy out of denying the ability of others to provide care, to provide love to others. It’s disappointing that caring for our neighbor, loving our neighbor, literally the basic tenets of our faith, have come to be labeled partisan ideology, as if acknowledging that people are poor, needy, homeless and we should help them through a variety of means is somehow a liberal plot to destroy our community.
And so maybe this is the cost of helping others. Maybe the real cost of helping others is being willing to stand against the tide, to speak against popular opinion, to hold to task those who have been entrusted with power and authority through elected office so that they do their jobs and work to serve ALL people in their communities. This is a real cost because it forces one to identify as counter-cultural, with all of the baggage that contains. But, it is a cost that we should be willing to take on, because this is also the cost of being a Christian, of following a Christ that constantly and consistently ministered to and advocated for the poor and needy, the least and last, among us. This means doing the work we are already doing. This also means that we publicly ask the question as to why we are having to meet the needs of people in ways that could and should be met through a city and county that have access to more resources than we will ever see.
We have to be willing to accept that the cost of helping others extends beyond the time we put into the work we do here, because we should also be motivated to make real change in our community, to be motivated by the stories of those we serve, to be motivated to insure that those in positions of authority in Longview/Kelso/Cowlitz County serve ALL in the region, to be a voice that brings to light the real issues that are faced here, no longer allowing them to be shoved to the side and ignored.
I am grateful to be serving a parish that sees the cost of caring for others as unburdensome. I am excited to see what we will all do together as we continue to serve others in the future. I am hopeful that together we will advocate for and see enacted real change so that all in our community are treated equally and receive the care they deserve as our siblings in creation.