Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why I go on Street Retreat

  1. Missionary to the homeless: Called by Sts. Mary & Martha, Christ Church, Her Church (Ebenezer) and St. Francis to be the Executive Director of WELCOME - a communal response to poverty, I also serve as a missionary to the homeless. By being out on the streets I can learn about the services that are or are not being offered by other organizations. Beyond that being on the street is an opportunity for those I serve to serve me (like Jesus' foot washing) and provides me with the opportunity to listen to those living in poverty in a new way. Like my encounter with the gentleman above (pictured on the left). My chance meeting with him helped him to change his life, clean up a bit and the picture of him on the right was taken during coffee hour at St. Francis Lutheran a year later. The pictures show what I have experienced hundreds of times over on the streets. Live change when you take a moment to listen.
  2. Educating people about poverty Issues: My time on the streets helps me to feel in my bones what it feels like to live in poverty. It also provides me with many of the encounters and stories that I talk about in my sermons throughout the rest of the year. Additionally, in a time when stories about people living in poverty and deep need overwhelm us, street retreats seem to capture people's attention in a unique and powerful way. Perhaps it is like any issue. We always care more when it affects someone we know or love. You may not have the ability, time or privilege to spend a week on the streets learning about poverty. But you may have the ability to read about my stories, share them with others or invite me to your congregation to share my stories first hand. If you want to learn more about the laws and politics that keep people in poverty, or about the ways that those living in poverty can be ministers, then I hope you will read about my street retreat.
  3. Begging for Change: I use the experiences I have on the streets to lobby politicians for change, to create new programs at WELCOME that will address the root causes of poverty and in a very literal way to panhandle. Yes, I beg those who are moved by my stories to support WELCOME with donations. This year while I'm at Churchwide, any money beyond what I'll need to eat will be donated to WELCOME. My goal is to raise $6,000. This is the amount of my sabbatical tuition. This will enable me to begin my Doctorate of Ministry at Pacific School of Religion, where I will study and discern the next phase of WELCOME. Help me, and WELCOME learn how to transform from a homeless ministry to a communal response to poverty, from a ministry of presence to a ministry of justice. We hope that our work with be a model for the rest of the country. So if you feel like this blog is educating you, please help support my education. Donate if you are able, I beg you.
Thanks for your support and for going on this journey will me.

Pastor Megan Rohrer

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Will Work For Food

I'm writing today to announce that I will be participating in a street retreat in Minneapolis, MN on August 17-23rd during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

I'm calling it: Will Work for Food - because at this assembly the ELCA will yet again be voting to decide if LGBT folk should be allowed to be pastors. Or as they'll say it: if gay and lesbians in "life long monogamous relationships" can be on the "official roster" of the church. Lutherans have been studying this issue since 1976 (it's actually the 6th study by my count if you count those of the churches that preceded the ELCA).

I am a pastor. I have been doing ministry. Ordained by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, my ordination followed Martin Luther's tradition of ordaining pastor's when bishops try to require a vow of celibacy (which Luther thought was against the gospel).

As a pastor who works with the homeless and hungry, on the one hand I'm hoping the church will vote to change their policy. On another level I'll be begging for my food the entire assembly - as a way to point out how much money the church (and those who are allowed to vote) spend on an assembly and how we should pay attention to those living in poverty who deserve pastors even when they can't afford them (or the upkeep of their building).

My plane ticket was free - a gift from United Airlines for mechanical delay on my flight back from Philadelphia. My registration for the assembly cost $50 to be a visitor - without registering as a visitor the armed guards won't let me inside the building. No really.

I plan to wear my clergy collar for my entire retreat and to carry a cardboard sign that proclaims will work for food. I will blog - both with words and with video. I also hope to bring some flyers that let people know what I'm up to, so they can learn about this blog and my work at Welcome in San Francisco.

I am beginning to learn about the laws about homelessness in Minneapolis. Also I'm thinking about mosquitoes and how to prevent being eating alive.

Since begging will be what provides me with my meals on my journey, I begin now by begging you to support Welcome. Send donations now or please let others know about what I'm doing so we can call attention to poverty.

I truly believe that when Lutherans cannot agree on policy, words or theology that we can agree on justice, to help the poor and help our neighbor. Join me August 17-23.

Pastor Megan Rohrer
Executive Director
Welcome - a communal response to poverty