The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for everyone, but it affected us at Denison in a particular way. We assumed management of the "homeless shelter" on March 15, just when COVID was taking off, libraries and restaurants were closing, and unsheltered people had even fewer places than usual to go. So just when most churches were suspending their activity, we expanded the hours of the shelter, an "essential service," from twelve hours to twenty-four, seven days a week, until June 1.
In those ten weeks, we shared our stories, laughed, loved, and cried together. The "shelter guests" helped with chores -- taking out the garbage, mopping floors, cleaning bathrooms. Since "shelter" seemed too sterile, and "guests" don't usually clean bathrooms, the term "shelter guests" evolved into "haven members."
The haven members taught us how miracles happen when people love each other unconditionally, speak the truth of their lives to each other, pitch in and work together, and wear the mantle of authority lightly.
Now that the "shelter" has closed and "church" has resumed, we realize that we want all of our ministry to be a "haven" -- a place of unconditional love -- but also a "co-op" -- a place where everyone works together to serve a common goal.
Of course we will continue to feed people who are hungry and clothe people who are naked. But we know that the true path to freedom requires more than charity. It requires the shift in power that can only happen when people come together in the service of love to a world in which it is "easier for people to be good" (Peter Maurin).
We follow Jesus, who called that the "kingdom of God." But we welcome everyone, regardless of their creed, who wants to work with us in building a haven of healing, hope, and freedom for us all.