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'Standing tall together works.'
November 6, 2014

Excerpt from remarks made Oct 30 by the Rev. Rena Turnham at Wayzata Community Church at our family housing initiative launch. | Exactly a year ago I was invited to attend an event, much like this one. It was co-sponsored  by Beacon and Edina Community Lutheran Church.  I was there to learn about the issue of west suburban youth homelessness. 

What I learned shocked me—that there was a very real and present crisis. How could it be possible in areas where our resources overflow –places like Edina, Wayzata, Long Lake and Orono, that people don’t have a stable and safe place to call home? And how as people of faith are we able to rationalize being OK with this? 

I know what’s going through your heads right now at this point in the evening:

Who will come forward from our pews to help?

What if everyone in our congregation doesn’t agree on this issue? 

Whose voices will be raised up?

I’m not going to lie…it’s easier to choose not to join this movement. It’s tempting to rationalize that someone else will do it.

I’m here tonight to ask you to use your congregations as networking hubs. 

Be that someone that invites other people within your own congregations to join the movement, and then equip them to take this charge outside the walls of the church and into the community—to dinner tables, to bleachers, to the local Caribou, to yoga classes, to morning neighborhood walks, to booster club meetings, to Scout gatherings…you get the idea. 

This is exactly what we were able to do…together in Edina over the last year.  Nine congregations, across denominations, with Edina Community Lutheran Church in the lead, and Beacon to guide us, were invited to the table.

When we came together at the table, all the gifts we needed to do the job were present. 

We prayed together, we planned together, we struggled together…and it worked. (See a “cheat sheet” of tips for how to engage together.)

Standing tall together works. Because of our shared work, we were able to get unanimous support of Edina city leaders.  66 West will one day be home for homeless young people in the western suburbs.

Our experience in Edina has produced some very unexpected fruit…like new voices for justice in our congregation and in our local community and a renewed vision for what people of faith can do together in the same neighborhood.  You see…our walls have been torn down. 

What we can do together is big, and it’s powerful. And it starts with you and me.

Rev. Rena Turnham
Rev.Turnham is a deacon at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Edina, which has provided strong support for 66 West.