As one surveys the discourse in American society these days it is easy to become despondent over the polarization seen in almost every walk of life. However, I want to take just a bit of time to bring some attention to some good news.
A couple of weeks ago my Episcopal Church parish hosted four families as part of Family Promise, a program designed to provide shelter, food, and help for families experiencing homelessness, with the goal of providing permanent housing for the families. Each week of the year a host church houses several families for the week and is responsible for providing shelter, showers, beds, laundry, food, etc. for the families. The families then rotate each week at a new church until permanent housing can be found.
Each quarter of the year our parish hosts families in the program for a week and it takes about 50 volunteers each week we do this. We convert classrooms and offices into bedrooms for the week, and cordon off part of the building as a hotel of sorts for the families. So, a couple of weeks ago my family provided dinner for one of the nights, and my kids played Uno and other games with the kids of the families being hosted. It was a wonderful experience.
One of the great aspects of the program is its interfaith nature. Not all church buildings are large enough or have the required facilities to adequately house multiple families for a week, so those churches participate by volunteering in various ways while the families are hosted at another church. For example, during the week the families were at our parish, another Episcopal Church parish, as well as a couple of other Christian denominations, handled all of the volunteer work for specific days of the week. From what I hear, this type of inter-denominational work is pretty typical in the program.
So, where is the LDS Church in all of this? Well, despite the LDS Church’s ban on overnight activities, which essentially rules out their facilities as potential host sites, LDS stakes and wards are significant contributors to the volunteer efforts of the Family Promise program while the families are housed in another church’s building. For example, during the week when one of the parishes in my diocese hosts the families, a large percentage of volunteers for that week come from a nearby LDS stake. I know there are several other stakes and wards that participate in a similar fashion during other weeks as well.
So, don’t get too despondent over the rancor and polarization in our society these days. There is work being done, often without fanfare, to pull people of different faiths and backgrounds together to help those in need. Such work has helped Family Promise of Salt Lake serve over 800 families, with 91% of those families still housed two years after finishing the program.