In Chapter 2 of The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, the author recounts the building of a true church several years ago in Philadelphia. It seems that members of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, mostly homeless mothers banded together to care for their children in a shrinking tent, sought shelter in St. Edward’s Cathedral, one of nine cathedrals the archdiocese had shut down in North Philly amid thousands of abandoned houses, factories, and empty lots. Upon hearing that the homeless had taken up residence in the house of God, the church was quick to sign the eviction notice.
The author tells of the formation of YACHT (Youth Against Complacency and Homelessness Today), a group of students committed to stand by the homeless, and their vigilant battle to keep the poor souls from being kicked to the curb by the right hand of God. As the media accompanied the church delegates and the police to evict the mothers and their children, the students came out in droves to protest, laying themselves on the line to be arrested if need be. To save face in the public eye, the church backed down time and again as the students coordinated their actions around protecting those who needed it.
In the meantime, the students held services in the once abandoned sanctuary, singing old hymns and freedom songs, having communion with apple cider and stale bagels, and dancing in the aisles with a spirit of freedom that can only be attained by doing the right thing. These young Christians didn’t look to the lofty appeal of saving souls for an afterlife promising the gold streets of Heaven, but sought to save the souls from facing the cold streets of Philadelphia. Whereas many churches have become complacent with offering only a head knowledge of Biblical rigmarole, this church evidenced true biblical compassion and service.
It’s extremely encouraging to know that there is still such a spirit flowing through the hearts of those who come in the name of Jesus. In a day and age where Jesus is depicted as wielding a sword to smite the ‘evils’ of this world, I feel optimistic that he is being seen once again as holding a loaf of bread and offering shelter to those who need it.