This blog post is in response to Charles Blow’s August 9, 2013 New York Times op-ed piece, “A Town Without Pity,” which was about America’s attitude toward the poor and homeless. Blow’s article is a must read for all who are concerned about the poor and disenfranchised. As Blow comments in his article, we were once the land of liberty that welcomed the world’s poor and homeless.
Yet today, many in America seem to have nothing but disdain for the poor. Only last week, I wrote about the vengeance being unleashed in the House of Representatives against safety net programs for the poor. They propose massive cuts in these programs often wrapped in language of contempt for those in poverty. As one who has been involved for 40 years with my congregation, Luther Place Memorial Church in D.C., serving homeless women at N Street Village, I want to offer a different perspective on the issues of poverty and homelessness in America then the one so prevalent in America today including in the chambers of our Congress.
My pastor of 27 years, John Steinbruck, gradually helped open our congregation’s eyes to the social justice message of the biblical texts, and he guided us in how to be good stewards of our church property and resources. N Street Village, a continuum of services for homeless and very low-income women, grew out of some old, run-down townhouses and a parking lot owned by the church. N Street Village supporters from multiple faith traditions helped build this amazing place of healing.
We discovered through working with the homeless women who came through our doors that they were not lazy freeloaders seeking to get a handout as often is the claim by those who want to cut safety net programs. These women were desperately seeking help for lives that had seen abuse, abandonment, mental illness, addictions, loss of jobs and housing, and more. We have witnessed so many wonderful transformations on our block through our customized safety net programs for the homeless. N Street Village now serves more than 60 percent of the population of homeless women in DC and is one of the premier programs in the nation offering a complete continuum of services to women seeking to reestablish wholeness of life. Government support, along with private charity, and private participation were all instrumental in achieving our success.
Religious historian Karen Armstrong identifies compassion as the most important and common tenet among the world’s major religions and the Dalai Lama (who visited N Street Village in 2007) similarly says that compassion and social justice is the common message of all the world’s major religions. I end with words of Karen Armstrong who says: “We can either empathize with those aspects of our traditions, religious or secular, that speak of hatred, exclusion, and suspicion, or work with those that stress the interdependence and equality of all human beings.” The choice belongs to each of us.
By Gary Maring – Gary is a member of Luther Place Membership Church and one of the founders of N Street Village. He continues his commitment to N Street Village through membership on the Board of Directors and volunteer service. Out of his 40 years of experience serving at Luther Place and N Street Village, he was moved to publish “Faith, Social Justice, and Public Policy.” He also authors a blog, which focuses “Faith, Social Justice, and Public Policy.”
N Street Village founder and current Board Member Gary Maring celebrated the release of his new book Faith, Social Justice, and Public Policy: A Progressive’s View in a heartfelt event at Luther Place Memorial Church this past Sunday. Many of N Street Village’s original founders, including Pastor John and Erna Steinbruck, were in attendance to celebrate 40 years of social justice work at Luther Place Memorial Church and N Street Village.
Gary’s presentation highlighted the work accomplished over the last 40 years and went on to lay out the social justice challenges facing our city and nation today, such as rapidly increasing income inequality, shortage of good jobs and affordable housing, and federal budget proposals that unfairly target the most vulnerable. He called for a new progressive movement within the church in cooperation with the progressive spiritual community, social justice oriented evangelicals, and secular social justice advocates.
Gary will sell and sign books this coming Sunday, June 24th after both Luther Place Memorial Church services with the profits going to N Street Village. The book can also be purchased on Amazon.
Join us as we celebrate the release of Faith, Social Justice, and Public Policy: A Progressive’s View by author Gary Maring, an N Street Village founder and current Board Member. The event will feature a brief book presentation, reception, and performance by N Street Village’s women’s gospel choirs. All proceeds from event book sales will benefit N Street Village programs.
Date: Sunday, June 17, 2012
Time: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Location: Luther Place Memorial Church (1226 Vermont Ave, NW, Washington, D.C.)
Getting Here: Limited street parking available. You may park in the garage at the Washington Plaza Hotel across the street from the church for $4; ask church for parking voucher. Luther Place Memorial Church is within a few blocks of the McPherson Square (orange and blue) Metro station. All are welcome! No need to RSVP.
Gary says, “For me, this book is the culmination of a year-plus endeavor to get down on paper what I have learned over the last 40 years being involved at Luther Place Memorial Church and immersed in development of the most amazing interreligious social justice initiatives like N Street Village.”
Schroeder Stribling, Executive Director of N Street Village says about the book, “Gary Maring’s voice is critically important for our times – this book is an exhortation to people of all spiritual traditions to respond in faith to the serious social justice issues of today. His perspective echoes the passionate response of the interfaith founders of N Street Village which has become a demonstration of hope and reconciliation on the small scale of our city. I trust that his words will inspire and encourage readers to create and sustain other such effective examples of justice and social change.”
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