Micah

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Love Your Neighbor

 

Thanksgiving Eve 2007, I was standing in front of an ecumenical gathering asking people to put more than loose change and a few dollars in an offering plate. “I need you to get out your checkbooks,” I had told them, because we had a lot of people sleeping outside in very cold weather that needed us to buy them a tent and sleeping bag. At the time, it was one of the most profound ways I knew to call upon our community to love thy neighbor. 

I wish I could report, after all these years, that we no longer need tents and sleeping bags because people no longer have to sleep outside. Pandemic relief resources have brought us close, allowing most of our unhoused neighbors to shelter safely in hotels for the better part of the last two years. We are doing everything we can to keep that going. But as life in our community settles around a new normal, there are plenty of evolving needs and fresh challenges keeping people in displaced situations. What I can share, however, are the many ways we now realize that God spoke into those early ministries of tents, sleeping bags, food and hospitality, and showed our churches that there was always a vision to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine…


 

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Micah Ecumenical Ministries started in the basement of Trinity, when Patty Marion first offered herself and God's love to a person without housing by offering him a warm cup of coffee one morning. From then on, the need to address hunger and housing insecurity in Virginia has been top of mine for the Downtown Fredericksburg congregations. 

Downtown Fredericksburg congregations have been involved with the community’s homeless population since the late 1980s, when they opened their church buildings as shelter space and provided meals to those in need. However, as the area’s original shelter program grew and redeveloped its programs, many people who lived chronically on the street found themselves ineligible for those services due to unmedicated mental illnesses, disabilities, criminal backgrounds and other barriers. As a result, these individuals ending up knocking on the doors of local churches in search of help. The original  congregations initially began to respond individually through the development of various ministries. But after the churches helped the original shelter relocate to a new building in the Battlefield Industrial Park in 2005, a number of these founding congregations came together to organize ways of assisting those whose needs were not being met. In response to God’s call to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), they formed Micah Ecumenical Ministries as a 501(c)3 non-profit responsible for coordinating church efforts to cultivate community and care for neighbors.

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