On Sunday, a group of about 20 of us from Epiphany completed volunteer training at the Malden Warming Center (MWC). MWC offers overnight housing during the cold winter months every night from December through March. What I love about MWC is that it’s a collaborative environment. There are recovery coaches and mental health therapists on-site in addition to volunteers checking in guests, cooking meals, monitoring the bathroom, and operating the clothing closet. This happens every single night until March. People who were guests at MWC who find housing will come back to volunteer. The mayor at Malden likes to volunteer too. Many of the same people are there each evening and it's truly a community.
The primary value at MWC is recognizing each person’s inherent dignity, which reminds me of our Baptismal Covenant to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” With God’s help, we make promises to respect the dignity of every human being. This goes beyond being nice to people. Recognizing the dignity in another human being means caring about the things that threaten that sense of dignity.
You might hear the word 'solidarity' from time to time here at church. It’s this concept that living in right relationship with one another and with God (where we get our word salvation) is at the heart of our faith. Scripture is filled with stories of Jesus caring for the poor, the sick, and those in prison. Sometimes in church, we may talk about people on the margins (that is those who experience oppression due to race, poverty, sexuality, ability, health, or an intersection of several of these) in these ethereal terms or as an abstract category. Solidarity means moving beyond the ethereal to real people — with names and faces.
Father Greg Boyle says this, “[Through solidarity], I discovered that you do not go to the margins to rescue anyone. But if we go there, everyone finds rescue.”
It’s this idea that our liberation is bound up with each other. Being in solidarity with those on the margins brings healing to everyone involved. Our faith lived out, will bring us out into new places, into new communities, and into new solidarity. Volunteering at the Malden Warming Center is a tangible way to embody Christ’s hospitality and solidarity because showing up allows for friendship with those on the margins. If this is something new for you, it will change your life and you will experience God in new and profound ways.
Practicing solidarity might mean driving to another town and getting stuck in a bit of rush hour traffic. It might mean getting a little out of your comfort zone. It might also mean actively participating in God’s future where dignity is restored and working for justice because as Fannie Lou Hamer says, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
If you are interesting in volunteering at the Malden Warming Center this winter, let Rev. Janelle know at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Teens can volunteer with their parents/caregivers in the clothing closet or kitchen, no training required.) And if you are interested in learning more about solidarity and justice, considering joining our Journey to Justice meeting this Sunday, November 19 at 11:30 in Upper Parish Hall.
Rev. Janelle Hiroshige