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Sunday, January 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Faith and Values: A warming center born through the desire of others to

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 4, 2019, 7:11 p.m.

The Rev. Andy CastroLang, second from left, talks with a visitor while Udell and Joan Rivers wait their turn to talk to the pastor at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Spokane, Wash., following a Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007, morning worship service. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)
The Rev. Andy CastroLang, second from left, talks with a visitor while Udell and Joan Rivers wait their turn to talk to the pastor at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Spokane, Wash., following a Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007, morning worship service. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s not a simple thing to become an “emergency warming center” in the space of a month (more or less).

Yet again and again, we here at Westminster have had the most wonderful experiences as we race to prepare our building to shelter homeless young adults in these dark cold nights of Spokane’s winter.

Representatives from the city of Spokane have been incredibly helpful. They are deeply concerned for those experiencing homelessness. They have compassionate hearts and smart minds set to work on this crisis, and find ways to help.

Into the possible snarl of red tape, they came with decisiveness and possibilities. They brought diverse folks together to help: the Guardians Foundation, the fire marshal, the people of Westminster, the City Council.

We have all been working hard to make this shelter happen soon.

And every step of the way, the employees from the city of Spokane have been saying, “How can we help?”

Every step of the way, we at Westminster have been awed and humbled by the surge of support. The tradespeople, whose expertise we needed, all stepped up to help as quickly as possible. All of them stated, in one way or another, “This is the right thing to do.” They too asked, “How can we help?”

Members of the church have worked all hours of the day, every day, to completely redo our ancient, cold and unworkable restrooms. They worked and laughed and worked some more, with great energy and commitment. On Sunday mornings, church members asked me, “How can we help?”

Every organization that shares our beautiful and historic space was approached by church leadership, and every organization agreed, “This is the right thing to do.” Some of those groups asked, “How can we help?”

Is this really so remarkable? This outpouring of care and energy? Only in our world where we seem inundated by bad news, and the corrosive power of fear. It is a shadow world and a lie, dispelled by the greater light of compassion and care for a neighbor.

I write simply to tell you that there is more to us than our fear. There is compassion, there is care. There is hard work and hopefulness. There is determination to do good. There is the will to risk and rise to a challenge for the sake of others. Church people, city workers, tradespeople, volunteer people: All responded with their time and energy and lives.

Homelessness is a complex issue and these temporary warming centers are not the answer to such a difficult situation faced by so many Americans. But a warming center is a place of rest, and safety, and a place of hope. Because people asked one another, “How can I help?”

Andy CastroLang is senior pastor at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ. She is committed to civil discourse among individuals and throughout our community: in interreligious conversation, private conversation, intergenerational conversation and yes, even in political conversation.

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