Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sleep out…

On the final Wednesday of every month, I wake up early to attend a board meeting of the local social services provider, IOCP. Partly, this is about raising our church’s community profile. It’s also about amplifying our church values. IOCP does incredible work assisting our most-in-need neighbors. Among similar agencies in the Twin Cities, few are their equal, like maybe 2 or 3 in terms of budget and impact. And since housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for struggling kids are the reasons we do church, then it makes sense we spend time and money to assist this good partner. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I groggily drive to morning meetings!

Well, it’s nearing November, and that means one thing to IOCP supporters: Sleep Out time! The Sleep Out is their largest annual campaign, raising nearly half their budget. It began twenty years ago, when Bob from “Bob’s Shoe Repair” in Wayzata decided to sleep outside during winter to raise funds for homeless neighbors. It’s grown from that solitary act of kindness into a community-wide event involving churches, schools, scout troops, businesses and more creatively dreaming up ways to raise money for and awareness of the poorest amongst us..

The most well-known of these events, of course, is people taking Bob’s lead and sleeping outside for a night, while asking friends, family, co-workers, etc. to sponsor their freezing evening. For years, Plymouth Creek folk did the same, though that’s faded in recent years. Perhaps because our youth and congregation aged. Or maybe people who once gave the event leadership wanted to do something else, and no one else stepped in. Which is how church should work. Don’t do what doesn’t inspire you simply because you think “that’s what’s supposed to happen.” Ugh. Jesus wants to lift our souls to singing. Make us uncomfortable sometimes to prod us toward more holiness? Sure. Make us dreary constantly by commanding we do stuff we don’t think matters? No way!

My other theory for why our (and other groups’) Sleep Out went away is that, without a youth group doing most of the sleeping, most adults say, “I’ve done it once; check,” and feel we’ve paid our dues. Our bodies, after all, respond less strongly than before; plus, we can write better checks than we could as youth. In other words, without an urgent reason to sleep out every year, why keep subjecting ourselves to the cold and stress?

If that guess is right, then I have a new reason for sleeping out this year that I wanted your feedback about. Several years ago, you’ll recall, a Muslim community (Northwest Islamic Center, aka NWICC) bought a building and planted roots just up the street. We’ve been on friendly terms since because Plymouth Creek believes in unity among God’s people, and doesn’t think that “having the same beliefs” is necessary for being good neighbors. Indeed, if more people of differing faiths would work together for a better world then…well…we’ll have a better world. And that’ll make Jesus ecstatic!

Anyway, NWICC continues exploring ways to be involved in their community. And I heard through the grapevine that they may be interested in hosting a sleep out for the first time, if they had a partner. That makes sense. It might seem rather daunting to jump into a community-wide campaign of this kind without a friend to jump with you.

So I’m wondering if some of y’all might be willing to sleep out with our Muslim neighbors?

I imagine we’d have fun together, learn about each others’ faith tradition, eat good food, whatever. But I only want to follow up on the possibility if enough PCCers commit to sleeping out that it would be worth everyone’s while. We can find a date later (maybe November 7?). The point is, this could be a fun way to connect again with this important event. And even if you’re uninterested or unable to sleep outside, I hope you’ll contribute to the campaign in another way. That way- together- we can build a better community for everyone.

Grace and Peace,

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