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From Don Fornoff, the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness:

The title is the name of the St. Luke’s redevelopment project in Ballard (North Seattle). About such a project, it isn’t often any of us get to observe something special, much less experience that activity in some way, and very rarely do we meet and talk with one or more of the leaders of that effort. So it went for me over the past few weeks with my encounter with the St. Luke’s redevelopment project. I was fortunate to attend the capital campaign kickoff, “Building a Place Where Love Dwells,” at Diocesan House in April. A week later, the Rev. Canon Britt Olson invited me for a tour and interview, which was followed by the official groundbreaking the following week.

I’ve had the privilege of talking with Diocesan and Cathedral members, city leaders and co-sponsors of the redevelopment process, members of St. Luke’s congregation, and, of course, Canon Britt during an all-too-short one-hour chat. We’ve all heard the term ‘leap of faith’. As you will see, this is truly a leap of faith!

During the tour of the St. Luke’s grounds, we encountered a man known by Britt who sought her out to thank her for her support as he was moving into his own place after ten years of homelessness. She knew him by name, as she did many, many others. Tears of joy and hope were shed. He was one of many served by St. Luke’s and their feeding program, Edible Hope, which began well before Canon Britt’s tenure. Ordained in 1996 in Oregon, she was called to this congregation of 13/15 people in 2015, which had no staff or money. It did have a desire to do something even greater as a mission church. Britt herself was going through some soul-searching. I could immediately see how this effort fed her and her congregation with the gift of God’s Love and Spirit. She and the congregation soon embarked on the visioning process, which resulted in redevelopment.

As Canon Britt described the timeline, the housing crisis exploded, along with immense problems of dealing with the mission through COVID. Many people, including the National Guard, helped keep the feeding program alive. It becomes obvious that besides food, the feeding program delivers hope, hence the name Edible Hope Kitchen. It continues five days a week for 200 unhoused, all needing to be part of the community and in need of daily care. Some in the neighborhood have threatened lawsuits and fines, but the church continued its ministry to those on life’s margins- they did not stop. Facing those who are cold and hungry, they cannot stop. Many on those margins said they would not be alive today if not for St. Luke’s.

Now, the congregation has over 100 members, many joining because of their outreach. Ten percent of the congregants are from the homeless community. With such long odds and difficulties, why keep on? As Canon Britt said, because of Jesus’ commandment to love one another as Jesus loves you (us): “To feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, visit prisoners, and to proclaim the good news of Christ.”

A week later, I attended the groundbreaking. Partners in the project had good words to say—Bridge Housing, Family Works, City Council, and State leaders looked on. Bishop Skelton gave us all her support in prayer. Canon Britt testified to the 9-year process of building a place where love dwells; 7 years ago, a vision borne in body, mind, and spirit took shape. All this reflects the beating heart of God’s mission—to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I left St. Luke’s the week before feeling love myself as a child of God. I left feeling the same way the week after. All that from meeting and talking with a leader who reflects the faith and spirit of her congregation.

Updates from the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness: Building a Place Where Love Dwells

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