On Friday morning, Reverend Matt Lacey at Church of the Reconciler, where I first met Edwina and others in the homeless community living with cancer, sent out an email to all volunteers:
You have probably heard the news about a violent incident at Reconciler yesterday morning.
So far, here is what we know (we think): two men were eating breakfast, got into an argument, went outside the 2nd Ave door and shots were fired. One of the men was taken to the hospital and released several hours later. At least one shot hit the door of the 2nd Ave entrance. Between our security cameras and some observers with cell phones, we know who the people involved were.
Some folks may not feel comfortable coming and serving now. We always want our supporters and volunteers to feel safe and comfortable, so if any group doesn’t feel comfortable serving breakfast, just let us know ahead of time, drop off the food at COR, and our crew can serve it.
I’m tempted to issue some vague statement about COR being a safe place and issue a call to move on from this, but I can’t do that.
I’m angry. Really, really damn angry that one or two people can, with their actions, jeopardize the thousands of plates you–our supporters–bring every week, cast doubt on a whole community of people who are already in need of help, and make folks question if it’s safe to come to our church.
I’m not going to go on about “this is something that could happen anywhere” because though that might be true, the violence we saw yesterday happens far too often in the lives of the folks we try and help. The folks who come to Reconciler live with this reality everyday.
When they hear gunshots in the homeless camps, Smithfield, West End–wherever they are–they have to ask themselves, “Which person that I know was that bullet intended for?”
We will look at what we do and see if we could have done something better, or see if there is something we can do to make people feel more safe.
Reconciler is a church–a sanctuary away from violence, drugs, and many other things that plague the population we serve. It is tempting to start treating our church like a fortress, in the hopes that we would more safe. But I really don’t think that’s what Jesus is calling us to do.
I’m not going to make you feel guilty about hesitating to come to COR. I get it, I understand.
What I hope is that you will continue to serve, whether that be with one of the other agencies downtown, or elsewhere, and never give up on Jesus’ command to love and serve all God’s people.
Rev. Matt Lacey
Senior Pastor, Church of the Reconciler
I feel for Matt. Everything he says is absolutely true. As frightened as volunteers might be, violence and unpredictability are an everyday occurrence for those who live on the streets. For many of them, it’s all they have ever known.