by Reverend Kevin Ewing
Rev. Ewing (or “RevKev,” as he’s known) is the Bridge Minister of Center Church on the Green, in whose parish house at 311 Temple Street DESK resides. For two decades, the church has been our strongest supporter, offering a huge dining room, professional kitchen, ample storage space, full utilities, and (most critically) a welcoming and charitable spirit. Their commitment to serving people who are experiencing homelessness, living in poverty, or just simply in need of a place for fellowship and warmth forms the backbone of what we all strive to achieve at DESK. –ed.
“For I was hungry, you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” – Matthew 25:35
First Church of Christ Center Church on the Green New Haven has a long history of giving. From its founding, the church has been a leader in caring for the poor and those in need in New Haven. We have been in the lead of almost every issue that has confronted the people in this region since our founding in August of 1639. Serving the poor is a cardinal tenant in our faith. And we strive daily to live into it.
It is our faith that compels us to support the work of DESK. In fact, we are proud to proclaim that DESK receives our largest amount of support each year. And we have no plans to discontinue it. We are pleased to be a part of the work that DESK does in our community. I have been in New Haven for over a decade, and each year it seems that more and more people are in need. As downtown New Haven grows … old abandoned buildings become high end apartments and condos … old storefronts become upscale restaurants and shops, we clearly see the people who are negatively impacted by this growth. They hang out all day on our church steps. They roam our streets. They show up each evening at the tables you set for them. It is clear that there is tremendous need in our city. And I am proud that we are able to support DESK as you step in to meet that need. Although we recognize that DESK is a separate organization from the church, we feel like we are part of you and you are part of us. You help us carry out our call to service and we will continue to look for ways to better partner to live more fully into our call.
As I see it, DESK provides something more valuable than a healthy meal. DESK provides an opportunity to sit at a table and be a part of a community. It’s very different than handing out sandwiches on the Green once a week or so. It’s more than just feeding people and taking care of their empty stomachs. Each evening, DESK provides this struggling segment of our community an opportunity to experience a few moments of normalcy … an opportunity to connect with others over a meal. Agencies like DESK not only feed the body but they also feed the soul.
I and my congregation love DESK and the work we do together. However, I would love to see DESK go out of business. And I believe our faith work is to make that happen. We would love to see DESK and all other soup kitchens go out of business. Not because of a lack of support … but because of a lack of need. What would happen if the mission was able to change from sustaining a place where the poor and the hungry come to get fed into a place where ANYBODY can come to gain connection? What would happen if we put efforts into ensuring that everybody who is able can earn a living wage? What would happen if everybody who is able has a place to live and can provide (even with support) for their own needs? I understand that Jesus reminds us in our scriptures that we will always have “the poor” but that shouldn’t be an excuse to stop trying to eliminate poverty. I see Jesus’ statement not as an acknowledgement of fact but as a challenge. Yes we will always have some people at the bottom of our economic ladder. We will always have people in need of help. That’s the way our systems are designed.
And that’s the work I believe we’re called to do. We are called to challenge those systems that allow people to go hungry. And we are to do this work even as we feed them … which makes it doubly difficult. But again my faith tells me that it is a battle that can be won. And we look forward to our victory. Until that day, there is DESK. Thank you for your work and we look forward to continuing to work alongside you, together in this community we all call home.