During this season of Lent, as a part of the Matthew 25 Initiative, we're seeking to raise $25,000 fund homelessness-related initiatives. The heart of the campaign revolves around the phrase, "Going without, for those who are without." In the spirit of Lent, when many of us give something up for spiritual or devotional reasons, we're encouraging one another to give something up and to put a monetary value on that item or items. That money will then be given to fund homelessness-related initiatives in three different ways. If you wish to give to the campaign, you can do so at any time by going to firstpreswc.com/give or clicking the button below.
God is leading First Pres through a very special and important time. It began almost a year ago when the Session went through a process of discernment asking God, “What’s next for the ministry of First Pres?”. After three months of prayer and study, the answer became very clear. Based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 25, the next stage of our church’s ministry was to center on God’s work toward those experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity in Chester County.
We quickly discovered we didn’t know enough about our calling and the issue we were going to tackle. For this reason, our next step was to research, study and educate ourselves. A Matthew 25 leadership team was formed as we all engaged in a study of two outstanding books: Alan Graham’s Welcome Homeless: One Man’s Journey of Discovering the Meaning of Home and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. In our study and discussions we found ourselves overwhelmed with the scope of the problem of homelessness. In the same breath, we found ourselves encouraged by Desmond’s encouragement to not wait until a plan to tackle the entirety of the problem was developed. Instead, we are called to simply do something, begin where we are, and let God lead us in the journey.
After a couple of sermons including one by author Shane Claiborne, and a few small but significant projects, we launched the Matthew 25 campaign for the congregation on January 1st, 2020. This included a church-wide invitation to study and discuss Graham’s book. To date, we know of seven groups and a total of 65+ church members who have read the book and are praying for God to lead us in our next steps.
Simultaneously, our congregation has been listening to a total of eight Matthew 25 podcasts featuring church members, staff, local and national leaders doing some amazing work in this area. Even our children are part of this initiative through their own Young Justice Builders Club.
MATTHEW 25: 2020 LENT CAMPAIGN
Many have obviously asked, “What’s next?” As you know, any new ministry initiative will require funding, but we want to not just raise money, but to be fully involved and establish relationships with those doing ministry with, for and among those experiencing homelessness. This leads us to this year’s Matthew 25: 2020 Lent Campaign.
Replacing our mission-focused Summer campaigns, Session unanimously voted to hold a Matthew 25 Lent campaign with the goal of raising - you guessed it - $25,000 to fund homelessness-related initiatives.
To best use the gifts of the congregation, we are partnering with two amazing organizations: Friends Association and the West Chester University Promise program. We have a long-standing relationship with Friends Association. They are an important organization which runs a family emergency shelter, as well as several homeless prevention programs. These funds will allow them to directly provide temporary shelter and support for families in need. To find out more about their mission, go to friendsassoc.org.
We will also partner with West Chester University through their Promise Program. Each year, this program supports 30+ students facing homelessness or housing insecurity. These are students who have been part of the foster care system, international students lacking the necessary resources, and LGTBQ students without the support of their families among others. The Promise Program helps provide housing over breaks, goods and supplies from the Resource Pantry, monthly dinners, and mentorship. There is a key need for many of these students to have access to the necessary resources upon graduation. First Pres is excited about this new partnership.
Most importantly, we believe God has already been stirring the heart of many of our church members and groups with dreams and ideas to put into practice. For this reason, part of the Matthew 25 Lent funds will go to finance your own God-inspired ministry. This is a new relationship-based, direct involvement initiative. Look for more information on this initiative toward the end of the campaign.
Additionally, the pastors are regularly approached by community members with specific housing related needs. When a referral to a local mission partner is not possible, the pastors have been able to find limited funds to help. This need averages close to $5,000 a year. The Matthew 25 campaign will provide these much needed funds.
LENT: WE GO WITHOUT FOR THOSE WHO ARE WITHOUT
$25,000 seems like a very large number. Recognizing that everyone has different abilities to contribute, we are recommending the following thought process as a Lent spiritual exercise:
Most of us give up something for the season in recognition of the practice of self-denial. Some give up chocolate. Others give up soda, or eating out, etc. What if we could give up something to help others in need? In other words, would we be able to go without this season for those who are without? Here is my very particular scenario: If I give up coffee for the season (except for Sunday mornings), plus one family night out during Lent, and instead of eating in town, I bring lunch from home once a week, my Lent discipline will add up to $250, which is what I will donate to the Matthew 25 Lent campaign this year. Now we just need 99 more of us to do this.
This is only one example. Some may be able to give more, some less. Some may not want to give up anything at all, but will contribute as they have done in past mission campaigns. Whatever your involvement, join us in prayer and let God guide you.
To give to the campaign, just contact the church office (610-696-0554) or go online to firstpreswc.com/give
What are you willing to give up this Lent to provide shelter for a family who is starting again or for a graduating student facing housing insecurity? Join us this Lent. Dream of new homelessness-related initiatives, and be amazed at what God can do.