A number of Episcopal churches participated in services memorializing people who died homeless this year. It isn’t clear to me whether these services are coordinated nationally, or if they simply spring up in particular areas. Whatever the case, this is a movement that is ready for its moment.
Members of our church could easily help organize memorials to the homeless dead as a national event, just as the Rev. Emily Mellott of Lombard, Ill., and others have done with Ashes to Go. This is an excellent opportunity to focus the attention of our communities on the lives of people who live on the margins, and to form relationships with those who work to help them.
Here are stories from Richmond, Detroit and Columbus.
An Episcopal church in downtown Richmond was among communities throughout the country on Friday that memorialized homeless people who died this year.
The Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, said the candlelight service at the downtown Richmond church was a way to humanize and remember the 27 known homeless people who died in Richmond in 2013, while bringing attention to an ongoing struggle to end homelessness.
“Their death in the streets is not the last word,” Adams-Riley said. “We are called by our baptism to honor the dignity of every human being.”
On the longest night of the year, people from various Metro Detroit service organizations met Friday at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul to light candles in remembrance of homeless individuals who died during the past year.
“We want to recognize those who have passed without headlines or news reports but are remembered in our hearts,” said the Rev. Scott Hunter, the cathedral’s dean. “I hope that you all join us in the prayer that, by this time next year, we won’t need to do this.”
The Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day remembrance is a partnership between the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan and Advantage Heath Centers, which has been providing health care services to Detroit’s homeless.
Candles burn in the Trinity Episcopal Church Downtown for each of the 44 known homeless and formerly homeless people who died in central Ohio in 2013.
At last night’s Interfaith Memorial Service, sponsored by the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, a 45th candle was lit for those unknown homeless people who died this year.