In recent weeks, the West Hartford community has grappled with the presence of panhandlers in public spaces. The initial response, posting "No Trespassing" signs, brought to light important questions regarding compassion, poverty, and social justice. As followers of Christ, it is crucial for us to delve deeper into these issues and consider how His teachings guide our response. In this blog post, we will explore the multifaceted nature of the problem and emphasize the importance of addressing poverty and homelessness with Christ-like compassion.
The Uncomfortable Truth:
Acknowledging that panhandlers can make us feel uncomfortable is the first step towards understanding their plight. However, we should reflect on why this discomfort arises within us. As followers of Jesus, we are called to embrace the discomfort and actively address the poverty and homelessness challenges present in our community. Christ's ministry was centered around compassion, and by following His example, we can work towards meaningful change and foster empathy within our midst.
Avoiding the Criminalization of Poverty:
Labeling individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty as trespassers on public property criminalizes their state of vulnerability. As believers, we are called to love and embrace the marginalized, not perpetuate injustice. Jesus Himself reached out to those on the fringes of society, offering them healing, hope, and acceptance. We must remember that each person is a child of God, deserving of dignity and compassion. By standing against the criminalization of poverty, we can demonstrate Christ's love and advocate for social justice.
Challenging Stereotypes and Misconceptions:
It is essential to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions that surround panhandlers. While it is true that some may exploit the kindness of others, it is not our place to judge the authenticity of their need. Jesus often challenged societal perceptions and offered grace to those who were deemed unworthy. As we encounter individuals in need, we should approach each encounter with open hearts and minds, seeking to understand their stories. Jesus teaches us to extend love and mercy to all, leaving judgment to God.
Promoting Sustainable Solutions:
Merely attempting to eradicate panhandling through signs and policies without addressing the root causes of poverty is a short-sighted approach. As Christians, we are called to seek sustainable solutions that address the systemic issues contributing to poverty and homelessness. Jesus taught us to care for the least among us, urging us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and provide for those in need (Matthew 25:35-40). By investing in initiatives that offer affordable housing, job training, mental health services, and addiction support, we reflect Christ's love and help individuals regain their dignity and independence.
The recent situation in West Hartford surrounding the "No Trespassing" signs presents us with an opportunity to examine poverty and homelessness through the lens of Christ's teachings. As followers of Jesus, we are called to respond with compassion, empathy, and justice. By embracing the discomfort, challenging stereotypes, and promoting sustainable solutions, we can embody Christ's love and create a community that reflects His teachings. Let us remember the words of Micah 6:8, "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." May we answer this call with open hearts and a commitment to transforming our communities through the power of Christ's love.
As we enter into a fresh Fall season of ministry, we are looking for some key people to step into leadership roles and for everyone who calls Riverfront home to "improve their serve" and volunteer somewhere significant.
In terms of leadership roles, we are beginning to structure our church around six Action Teams: Worship, Family/Fellowship, Spiritual Growth, Community Engagement, Justice, and Children/Youth.
This structure emerged out of the important vision/mission work we did this past Spring. Each of the teams will "steward" that area of ministry -- developing a vision, ideas, plans, and programs. We hope that every member and regular attender at RFC will serve on at lest one Action Team in some role.
Additionally, we are looking for leaders (or co-leaders) for each of these teams. These leaders will help coordinate the individual teams as well as meet monthly with the pastoral staff as an Action Coordination Team (ACTs) to make sure we are coordinating our efforts, stewarding resources well, and thinking about our vision/mission from a 30,000 foot level.
The Board will focus on areas of spiritual leadership, stewardship, policy, and accountability. Each Action Team will have a Board liaison serving on the team (but not necessarily leading the team. One of the pastors will also be a part of each of the teams.
So far, we have leaders in place for two of the teams:
JUSTICE ACTION TEAM - Miela Gruber & Chris Graesser
WORSHIP ACTION TEAM - Michael Minch & Diana Scott
We are still looking for people to take on leadership roles for the following Action Teams:
Family/Fellowship Action Team
Spiritual Growth Action Team
Children & Youth Action Team
Community Engagement Action Team
If you are interested in serving in one of these roles, or have any questions about them or want to discuss more, please email Pastor Ben and Pastor Michael at email@example.com.
If you are interested in volunteering and serving in a particular role, you can also check out our VOLUNTEER INFO PAGE.
We got a very nice thank you from the folks at Billings Forge Apartments. They were very grateful for our support of their Baclk to School BBQ. We hope to continue to build these relationships and connections with our neighbors!
"Hi Ben - I want to thank you so much with the partnership and the donations you gave to our residents in the BBQ and thanks for the extra mile you put in finding backpack donations from the Hispanic Health Council. We appreciate you!
Thanks to the volunteers that came from your church (Riverfront Family Church) they were awesome with our kids playing all those games.. I think they had more energy than the kids!! Say hi from me and many thanks for coming to the BBQ! 🙏 We really enjoyed having all of you at the BBQ with us!😊
Please let me know if you want to get involved with this community enagagement in the future. We are definitely looking for more opportunities!