Welcoming The Homeless
They may walk the streets by day and sleep in cardboard at night, but in Birmingham, Alabama, a group of homeless and indigent find their way to a church that simply calls them “neighbors.” As Reed Galin reports, this is a congregation that is facing impoverishment and despair head-on.
(Locator: Birmingham, Ala.)
Congregation singing: “Lord, please help me to love my neighbor…”
This place in Alabama pushes the boundaries of loving one’s neighbor. At the Church of the Reconciler, you could be sharing a pew with someone who has no home. Half of the members of this United Methodist church are homeless or living in extreme poverty.
The Rev. Kevin Higgs/Pastor, Church of the Reconciler: “When you come here, you’re sitting next to God’s child.”
Jill Varney/Member, Church of the Reconciler: “I was into prostitution and dealing the drugs. We’re an outreach for the homeless people and the homeless community comes here. They work in the church…as the janitors, as the cooks.”
There are perhaps 15,000 people in Birmingham with no place to go, seeing few welcome signs.
The Rev. Kevin Higgs/Pastor, Church of the Reconciler: “We have the biggest door of any church anywhere. It’s a warehouse door and we open it up and everyone’s welcome. And when you come through that door, you see all of America.”
Jill Varney/Member, Church of the Reconciler: “I’m a living testimony of what God can do and change somebody.”
Each Sunday, members of the Church of the Reconciler help prepare a meal and then eat lunch with members of another nearby church.
Mary Jones/Member, Church of the Reconciler: “So we can have people to come and be with someone unlike yourself, someone unlike me, someone unlike him.”
Cassandra Hicks/Member, Church of the Reconciler: “I was raised to help people no matter what their circumstances may be.”
The lesson here is that everyone has something to give. And that even if one doesn’t have a home, there can still be hope.
Mary Jones/Member, Church of the Reconciler: “You’re a human being, number one, and you are welcome to this place. And that’s what church ought to be.”
The Church of the Reconciler was founded 12 years ago by Rev. Higgs’ father, the Rev. Lawton Higgs. The original mission of the church was to address Birmingham’s race issues and to create a place where blacks and whites could worship together.
For more information, contact The Church of the Reconciler at 205-324-6402.
Also see: Downtown church offers spiritual home to homeless people.