The Rev. Rena Turnham, a deacon at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Edina, recently spoke to Wayzata Community Church members about her congregation’s engagement in the movement to create 66 West, housing for homeless youth in Edina.
She says her congregation's participation in that effort led by Edina Community Lutheran Church and Beacon, was rewarding not only for the successful outcome in securing the property for the housing, but because it built new energy among the people of St. Stephen's.
“Standing tall together works,” she said. “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. But our experience in Edina has produced some very unexpected fruit. 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. Our walls have been torn down.”
Rev. Turnham’s practical advice about engaging your congregation in the movement to end homelessness
- Pray together and invite your faith community to pray for families experiencing housing instability.
- Pray for city officials that they will be open and courageous.
- Start by connecting with the hearts of the people in your pews….and heads and voices will follow when people are called to specific action.
- Dare to step into the life of someone experiencing the lack of affordable housing, through tours of similar developments and through role playing.
- Get support from your pulpits.
- Communicate with city officials: face-to-face and through letters and emails.
- Use your church signage. Be provocative. Create conversation.
- Be invitational and open and the right people will come forward.
- Write letters to local newspapers.
- Engage your congregation’s children and youth.
- Don’t limit yourself to one voice inside the walls of your faith community.
- Discern where the gifts of your faith community can come alongside those of congregations providing leadership to increase the capacity of this movement.
- And lastly, love your neighbor as yourself, even when you disagree. Practice humility and civility and listen with a pure heart and a keen ear.