Earlier this month, Reverend Jen Crow addressed the First Universalist congregation, and announced that the church would be deepening its commitment with Habitat for Humanity. She asked members to consider doing something bold: give half of what they normally spend during the holiday season to the church's efforts of sponsoring a Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity home in 2014. This commitment, rightfully named The House That Love Built, means a goal of raising $60,000.
In a letter to the congregation, First Universalist leadership encouraged members to spend less on "stuff" and more on creating a lasting positive change for a family through Habitat:
In her homily on October 13th, Reverend Crow shared two stories that inspired the work needed to bring The House That Love Built to life. She explained that during the annual Christmas pageant, the story of Mary and Joseph searching for a place to stay stuck with her:
“…At one point in the story, Mary and Joseph make their way down that aisle - our youth, teens dressed in rags - walking down the aisle, turning to us, and asking, begging really - do you have any room? Any room? And I don’t know exactly what happened last year, but I can tell you that as I watched, something in me cracked open. There they were - our teens - coming down the aisle of our church of their church - asking us - do you have any room? And one by one, one after another, we told them - No, there is no room for you here.”
Months after the pageant, Reverend Crow participated in the church’s Day of Service with Habitat for Humanity. As she joined members who were painting in the basement, she found herself engaged in a conversation with the new homeowner, who was painting alongside them.
“…He shared things about his family – his kids and his wife, and how they had arrived in the states a few years back. He told me that one of the things he was most looking forward to in owning their own home was saying goodbye to renting. He didn’t mind the community part of it, he said, but he minded that every time they had to look for a new place for his family to live, he encountered the same problem. He’d find a great place, he said, and he’d call the number on the sign or the ad. He’d talk to the person on the other end of the line for a minute or two, they’d hear his accent, and they’d ask how many children he had. He’d tell the truth, six, and they’d hang up… Each time I call they hang up, he said, like there’s no room for us.”
What began as a single one-day project with a $500 donation to Habitat, has grown into commitment from the church to raise the money to sponsor the build, and provide multiple work weeks and monthly work days for First Universalist volunteer building crews. The House That Love Built is a large goal for the church – but its leadership feels that its purpose is far too important to shy away from. This home will not only serve as a reminder of what can be achieved when communities work together, but it will also be a welcoming invitation for a new family.
It is clear from the church’s commitment, that when asked, “Is there room in our lives, is there room in our hearts to swing the doors wide and say welcome?”, the members of First Universalist Church have answered with a resounding—“YES!”