Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator
“These people who are turning the world upside down
have come here also….”
In Acts 17:1-11, Paul and Silas are traveling across Macedonia toward Greece and come to Thessalonica. They are hosted by a man named Jason, who, along with some other believers, gets taken before the authorities. The people are searching for Paul and Silas who they accuse of “turning the world upside down.”
This is a phrase that Michael Curry picked up in the sermon at the service making him our new Presiding Bishop. He turned the phrase, saying, “turning the world upside down; that is, right side up.” We as Christians are to recognize that the world around us is not as it should be and we need to turn it right side up in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
One of the ways to do that is to offer hospitality to those who have no place to stay, as Jason did for Paul and Silas. A number of our churches are involved with providing shelter for the homeless, Today, we look at two churches that use different models of providing hospitality to those who are homeless; their way of turning the world upside down, which is right side up.
All Saints, Lehighton, was started as a mission of St. Mark’s, Mauch Chunk, in 1904. The church and rectory were built by a gift given by Mary Cummings Packer, and consecrated in 1907. For about the past five years, All Saints has embraced a program called Family Promise Carbon County, served by 10 churches. 4-5 times a year, All Saints opens their church to a homeless family with children for a week, providing a hot dinner and breakfast as well as a temporary home. The families are usually in the program for 3-4 months as they save money for more permanent housing. They spend the days at jobs, at a day center, or school. The rector says, “It is a blessing that the people of All Saints had a vision for this hospitality. I really think that it is the time we are cooperating with God’s purpose to help the poor and homeless.”
St. Andrew’s, Allentown, sits on the border of Allentown and Bethlehem. It was started as a mission in Bethlehem in 1953. St. Andrew’s chapel was built in 1957. In 1964 during a heated discussion as to whether they would take on the debt for the church and pay the rector’s salary in order to become a parish, one of the members stood up and said, “What the hell, let’s go for broke!”
That spirit of boldly following God’s call characterized the parish again when they became concerned about the plight of homeless people during a particularly frigid winter. They worked with the Cathedral, and Trinity, Bethlehem, to establish an Emergency Shelter program in 2009. The program now involves over a dozen churches of different denominations in the Bethlehem area, who provide food and shelter for homeless guests from the beginning of December to the last day of March each year. On Friday nights anywhere from 25 to 40 guests are welcomed at St. Andrews, sleep in a safe place, and are fed a delicious dinner and breakfast. The rector says, “It’s what we do on Friday night that gives us the privilege to do what we do on Sunday morning. The Gospel is about the good news for the poor. If we are not doing that, we are not doing what we are called to do as Christians.”
How are you and your parish helping to turn the world upside down?