This past week, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church hosted the Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry Cold Weather Shelter for the week.

People standing in line to enter homeless shelter

During our week of hosting, at least five other churches in the area also participated in providing food, overflow support (the number of homeless in need of shelter has exceeded the capacity of a host church like ours a majority of nights this year!), and transportation.

That caused me to ask WARM’s Executive Director Debra Burns how many congregations take part in this ministry to the homeless in our area — not only the cold weather shelter, which operates November through March of each year, but the Ruth Anderson WARM House, which operates year round offering help to homeless families; women and children in our area who are homeless.

Debra sent me a list: more than 30 congregations in our area provide volunteers and funding to make the ministry and program of WARM’s Cold Weather Shelter and WARM House possible. In addition there are many volunteers who do not identify with a congregation who also volunteer their time and resources to help out. It’s important to know about that within our community for reasons that go beyond a “way to go!” and thank you to all the volunteers, as important as it is to do so.

There are a number of important passages in the Bible that emphasize how important unity is to God’s people. The 133rd Psalm talks of how “very good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity,” and speaks creatively how that unity grows and flows over as a blessing. Jesus, before his death on the cross prays to the Father that his followers “may be one as we are one,” and says this unity among followers of Christ is important so that “the world may believe that you sent me” (cf. John 17:20-23). And in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges the church to make every effort to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” He goes on to say that the Church is like a Body working together “to promote the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (cf. Ephesians 4)

A look at the list of congregations helping to make the cold weather shelter and WARM House possible is also a list of many Christian traditions: Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Nazarene, Seventh Day Adventist, Church of God in Christ, Salvation Army, and non-Denominational congregations: a full width and breadth of Christianity. Sometimes we have viewed that width and breadth with suspicion, or with a questioning of one another, and sometimes the activity and ministries we have within our own congregations and denominations may seem enough to be occupied with. However, we live in a time where our witness together through what we do together is named by our Lord Jesus as central to the world around us knowing and believing in him.

And the Bible is equally clear that, in addition to the ways we are called to share the gospel Word, God has specific ways that we are called to work together to make God known, such as God’s command through the prophet Isaiah to “bring the homeless poor into your house” (Is. 58:7). The world around us is much less likely to ask “what do you believe;” it is much more likely to ask the Church, “show me what difference Jesus makes.”

So, I give thanks for the five congregations who worked with Grace this week to make the WARM Cold Weather Shelter possible; And I give thanks for more than 25 other congregations of our sisters and brothers in Christ who complete the cold weather shelter season, and keep the WARM House available to homeless families all year long.

It may be “the right thing to do.” But more importantly the love of God in Jesus Christ is being made known in what we’re doing — together.

~Pastor Paul Pingel, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church

See original online post here.

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