SWPA Honors King With Focus on a Home for ALL in the Beloved Community

Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with an ecumenical service of Holy Communion and a weekend focused the practice of nonviolence in their continuing efforts to build the Beloved Community in the Pittsburgh region with a priority on equitable housing.

In his sermon, “Dr. Asa Lee reminded those who attended the MLK Commemoration of the SWPA Synod of the ELCA that connecting our worship to our pursuit of justice is what brings the blessing of God into our midst,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Rafanan, of the synod’s Authentic Diversity and Justice Team.  “The challenge we face is to move from our worship to a compassionate presence with those experiencing housing insecurity and then into an informed engagement in the work of ensuring that all can have a home in the Beloved Community Dr. King envisioned.  We know this will be challenging.  In our baptism, we are called to this work of creating an anti-racist church, and we are thankful that God partners with us in all of our endeavors.”

The weekend’s events, which included visiting with neighbors of Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community sheltering under bridges and along nearby trails, strengthened relationships in support of a more just and thriving community. ELCA World Hunger staff Brooke DeJong and Evie Landrau participated in Saturday’s learning events, sharing new housing data and the new ELCA World Hunger housing resource, Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building.

Fire tore through an encampment of neighbors served by Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community in Pittsburgh shortly before volunteers visited with blankets and other necessities. All were reported to have survived the fire, but tents and other belongings were destroyed.

ELCA Witness in Society staff Andrew Fuller and Tracey DePasquale led participants through current opportunities to advocate for state and federal policies to support fair and accessible housing and care for unhoused neighbors, as well as long-term strategies for engagement in the public square on behalf of  beloved community. Click here for federal action opportunities.

“The suffering is heartbreaking, especially when we were reminded of the sheer numbers of people — from grandparents to babies — who were displaced and living outdoors when the eviction moratorium ended, ” DePasquale said.  “At the same time, the grace and love with which I see the church responding as church together in all three expressions — congregations, synod and churchwide ministries — alongside community partners in SWPA, gives me hope and encouragement.”

Throughout the weekend, the connection between hunger and housing was showcased in creative ministry responses to Christ’s call to love our neighbor, including the “Little Free Food Truck,” a ministry of the House of Prayer Lutheran Church in Aliquippa.

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration event was an invigorating experience!” Landrau said. “I appreciated learning all the great work around advocacy happening in Pittsburgh, PA.  I am grateful for the spaces that were created for worship, learning and conversation as we remembered MLK’s legacy!”


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