We are now in the season of Pentecost. Pentecost focuses on what one writer has called “the shy member of the Trinity”—the Holy Spirit. It is frequently called the birthday of the church. For today’s article, I would remind us all that one of the very first actions of the newly-birthed church was to elect someone to oversee the ministry to widows and orphans. All the wind and fire in the world would mean nothing without caring for the least and most powerless among us.
With that in mind, it may seem a strange moment to speak of Room In The Inn. After all, the temperatures have been wonderfully pleasant these last few days and warmer days are still ahead. The bitter cold and icy streets may be forgotten, but those guests of ours are not forgotten.
Room In The Inn set some records this year. A total of 187 unique faith groups offered shelter this year. Room In The Inn is probably the most “inclusive” ministry in Nashville. 32,000 beds were made available through the season and volunteers gave a record number of over 145,000 hours.
Our congregation provided 107 of those beds, 321 meals, and 547 of those volunteer hours. We cooked meals, set up comfortable sleeping arrangements, picked up and dropped off guests, and spent the night with our friends. We made warm clothing available every week. We sat at table and talked. We learned a lot about each other as we shared a meal.
It has been said that “humility is NOT thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."
That’s why we are so excited about PACK AND PRAISE. This is one way we continue to be in ministry to these friends during the balmy days—those days when the men we served DON’T have a church to sleep in and DON’T have three meals provided. The lunch bags our youth put together for us are now available for you to put a few in your car and give to the homeless ones you come across during the week. Maybe it allows a conversation to take place, maybe not. But a meal will be provided for many who will struggle to eat.
We want EVERYONE to be a part of this effort. The bags contain non-perishable food items, so you can keep them in your car for as long as it takes for you to pull up to a corner where someone is selling The Contributor. By all means, buy a paper—but don’t forget to offer them a bagged lunch. That lunch also contains a prayer and a message of hope from our church.
For all of you who volunteered for Room In The Inn this past season—thank you so much. Your work mattered. A special thanks to Diane Jones who has given leadership to this ministry for our church for many years. By the way, she could use some help next year—is the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart to step up?
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.