Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Room In The Inn

Room In The Inn is in its 28th season of providing shelter for the homeless in area congregations. 180 congregations are participating, representing Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, the Churches of Christ, Episcopal, Catholic, Adventist, Lutheran, evangelical, Jewish, Unitarian, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalist, Nazarene, African Methodist Episcopal, and nondenominational communities. All come together to provide the grace of hospitality under the common theme of God's unconditional love for all people, especially the poor and dispossessed.

Room In The Inn is a simple concept addressing a complex problem. It starts with building relationships of trust and respect in an atmosphere of non-violence. It believes in the power of love offered in one-to-one encounters with one another.

Because so many new people have arrived in the Nashville area since Room In The Inn's inception in 1986, it may be helpful to discuss what Room In The Inn is not and what it is. Then, perhaps, more new volunteers and congregations will want to become involved.

Room In The Inn is not an attempt to resolve all of the issues of the homeless. The problems are too deep and too personal.

Room In The Inn is not a program where a congregation takes one or more homeless people "under wing," providing them with economic assistance, job training, and personal spiritual direction. These gifts can be offered in time as relationships develop.

Room In The Inn is not about establishing another large shelter downtown where hundreds of people are cared for nightly.

And it is not about boards of directors or major fund-raising campaigns for capital projects. 

What is it?

Room In The Inn is a way for more people to understand the problems of the homeless by becoming directly involved with people who are homeless.

Room In The Inn is a means through which congregations of every faith open their facilities to welcome 12-15 homeless people as guests on cold winter nights.

Room In The Inn is about changing people, guests and hosts alike. It creates the opportunity for the guests to learn that there are people who care and for the hosts to come to understand that the faceless figure on the street corner is more than a statistic and that there are solutions.

Room In The Inn is about serving without prejudice or pride. It is about accepting everyone.

Room In The Inn is not about giving; it is about receiving. It is about everyone, both guests and hosts, receiving a blessing-- an encounter with God in the midst of suffering, hardship, pain and grief.

Room In The Inn is an opportunity, not an answer. It is an experience, not a solution. In short, Room In The Inn is an opportunity to experience the presence of God in a different way.

Finally, Room In The Inn gets its name from a story in the Bible about a family coming to Bethlehem and not finding any room in the inn. We cannot go back in history 2,000 years and change that story. But what we can do in Nashville each evening we are open is to change that story’s ending by providing room in the inn. 

As 200 plus people come every night for shelter, we often change that story’s ending. The colder it gets, the more we fail. Despite over 30,000 nights of shelter offered last winter, there were many nights when we turned away between 80-100. Despite 180 congregations participating—a priceless gift to our community—there are many congregations that are not. Please consider helping out in your congregation or, better still, trying to recruit other congregations to be involved. It will change your life.