Hospitality to Homeless: Part of ‘Being the Church’

Post a Comment » Written on January 29th, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Matt Enquist

CHICAGO, IL (January 29, 2009) – Winters can be brutal on the streets of Evanston, Illinois, with wind chills diving well below zero and snowfall coating everything in sight for four months out of the year. But the realities of winter in the Chicago suburb are perhaps most fully felt by the homeless.

Sojourner Covenant Church decided to meet that need by running a warming shelter called Café Sojourner each Friday in the church narthex.

The shelter is open for four hours each Friday afternoon from November 16 to March 28. “We meet a need for hospitality,” says ministry team leader Carrie McClain.

Volunteers arrive in two shifts to set up sleeping mats, a reading corner with couches, and an area with a television and chairs for people to warm up and relax. There’s also popcorn, coffee, and tea to sip over social board games with one of the Sojourner volunteers.

“Offering what we have to others who are in need is an integral part of following Jesus.”

“The guests are mostly Evanston homeless men and women who basically need a place to go to escape the cold,” says McClain.

“Café Sojourner began over 10 years ago and is a part of a larger Evanston network called ‘Connections for the Homeless,’” says Sojourners pastor Nils Peterson. The network collaborates with different churches and organizations to serve the needs of those who are homeless on a 24-hour basis.

Peterson is thankful for the role the ministry has played in the small congregation.

“I am struck by how significant an impact is made by something as simple as opening up the doors of the church and serving coffee for a few hours,” Peterson says. “It has taken work to keep this ministry of hospitality running, but each year I am amazed by the impact that it has on guests and volunteers.”

The ministry has benefitted the homeless, but Peterson sees a positive impact on any church when it makes working among the poor a significant facet of congregational life.

“I believe that it is good for the soul of the church,” Peterson says. “It gives life and integrity to all of our ministries of hospitality when we seek out ways to open our doors to all the members of our neighborhood. Offering what we have to others who are in need is an integral part of following Jesus; it is part of what it means to be the church.”

McClain agrees, adding that such ministry enables volunteers to witness the importance of their work. “Overall, people just want to be treated like human beings,” she says. “Being able to come in and have people serve them is something that they don’t necessarily get everywhere.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog