"We believe that Christ is alive and in our midst, especially among our poorest and most vulnerable citizens...."
An Open Letter to the Citizens of New London
from the Vestry of St James Episcopal Church.
The Vestry of St James Episcopal Church has prepared the following response to The Day's editorial of Sunday, January 11th regarding the homeless shelter at St. James.
Since its founding in 1725, St. James has had a long history of leadership in New London and our ministry to the homeless goes back decades. In 1982, we joined with St. Mary Star of the Sea to found the Covenant Shelter for homeless families. Members of St James continue to serve on the Covenant Shelter Board. Other ministries at St. James serve our community as well, including:
- “The Lord's Pantry” (a source of free food staples)
- first Saturday Community Meal (a lunch offered without charge to all; other area churches offer this service as well so that every Saturday is covered)
- handmade quilts for children at Covenant Shelter
- hats, mittens, gloves, and scarves for area school children who need them
- “The Jumble Shoppe,” which offers inexpensive clothes and home goods
- a backup temporary shelter, at the City's request, for neighbors displaced by loss of heat during severe cold weather
- twelve step programs
- a welcoming place of worship for all.
When the City of New London closed its Social Services Department in 2005, St. James offered to house a temporary winter shelter. In the spring of 2007, with the City Council's approval, we extended Shelter operation year-round. The Shelter has not shut its doors since. As you know, it has been a source of vigorous discussion in our Parish, just as it has been throughout the community, and we have struggled to understand our calling to this ministry.
But we must be clear—our relationship with the Shelter through its manager, the Homeless Hospitality Center (HHC), is not a “legal maneuver.” It is part of our longstanding church mission of serving the homeless and otherwise marginalized members of our community.
We believe that Christ is alive and in our midst, especially among our poorest and most vulnerable citizens. Our considerable experience with homelessness tells us that the Shelter is a temporary solution to this problem. We believe, as most do in our community, that a permanent location is needed where more effective services can be brought to bear. St. James is fully committed to working with the City Council, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the HHC to achieve that aim. Until then, our fervent prayer is that the Shelter will be allowed to remain open after April 30, 2009, so that we can continue to serve those whom Christ commands us to serve.
Yours in Christ,
The Vestry of St. James Episcopal Church