Friday, December 21, 2007

Rally for Mary Randall Day Center

Today was an exceptional day. December 21st is National Homeless Person's Memorial Day. The Meeting Ground organized a rally and march in Elkton, focusing upon homelessness generally and upon the Mary Randall Center specifically.

The Mary Randall Center, at 401 North St. in Elkton, was purchased by Meeting Ground (by the grace of God). It is commercially zoned, centrally located, and was made possible by a large donation in memory of its namesake. The mission of the Mary Randall Center is to provide a space during the day for people experiencing homelessness or on the brink of becoming homeless, offering life-skills workshops, Bible study, and resources to help people. It would get people off of the streets during the day, and give them the opportunity to put their lives together. It is a gift from God.

However, the Town of Elkton does not seem to agree. Despite the Meeting Ground's careful attention to buying a commercially zoned property, they have ruled that a special variance is required. They have denied all building and occupancy permits. This means that not even a bathroom facility can be completed, and thus the house cannot even be used for office space for Meeting Ground staff.

It looked to me as though more than 100 people turned out for the rally and march. I was especially proud to be pastor of this church family, because at least 15 members of our community of faith were there, including three children (2 mine), two teenagers, and two people who dedicate their vocational life to this mission by working full time for Meeting Ground. People shared testimony. We walked through Elkton. We even had the blessing of a police escort to stop traffic at intersections. We broke bread together at the Community Kitchen.

I don't know what this road ahead will look like, but I am confident of the outcome. God will not let this injustice stand. I am buoyed not only by faith, but by knowledge of the past. Every time Meeting Ground has purchased a facility in Cecil County, they have had to fight in court in order to open. Every time, Meeting Ground has won. (If I were a town of Elkton tax payer, I would be none too happy that my tax dollars might get wasted on a futile effort)

I have sent email letters to the mayor and three of four town council members (one does not appear to have email) I encourage you to do the same. Regardless of where you live, express your opinion as someone who lives in Elkton, shops in Elkton, or as a person in the world beyond Elkton to let them know this is an issue that carries far beyond the boundaries of the town. (Of course, actual town residents who vote will have the most sway... so if you are one, please write)

Mayor Fisona:
Mr. Charles Givens:
Mrs. MaryJo Jablonksi:
Mr. Earl Piner:

As I looked around the circle of closing prayer today, I saw God's people, from all walks of life and of varying beliefs, gathered in sacred community. I am grateful to God to be able to witness this, and to be able to share this with my children.

In the Spirit of Advent I say "Come, Lord Jesus."

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