As the Executive Director of Welcome, where we've downsized from 3 staff members to 1 in the same year where hunger has increased 40% locally, I am consistently begging for funds and we are only able to keep the doors open because of the generosity of other interfaith congregations and faith groups.
In terms of our place amongst other congregations, some might think of my work as like one of the little fish that cleans the side of the tank or a bird that eats to bugs off of other bigger animals. Some have even thanked me for being willing to work with those who are not welcome at other congregations, or whom they cannot stand to see, smell or share coffee hour food with.
While financially these metaphors are apt, the last statement certainly says more about those who have said it than it does about me or my work.
Welcome is the little engine that could, keeping its doors open while bigger non-profits that work with those living in poverty disappear each year.
Our focus is simple. Rather than becoming a static place for direct services, Welcome seeks to educate faithful people so that their efforts can make a bigger difference in the neighborhoods they live in and to fill in the gaps where bigger programs and government organizations are unable to meet critical needs.
Sometimes this means filling out paperwork for people, serving food on a day when no other agencies are open, teaching people to learn the life skills they need to live indoors for the first time in 20+ years or organizing congregations and faith groups to share more than 5,000 blankets.
But even though Welcome has to beg for what we need and the funds to keep our doors open in with the same constant tenacity as those we serve, that does not mean our space in the church at large should be belittled.
So, starting today, I will now think of myself as a pastor of a mega-church. Called to be a pastor to the more than 4,300 homeless individuals in San Francisco, Welcome has more members than any other congregation in town. What other congregation could say that its membership includes 1 in 6 San Franciscans (the number of people who go hungry each day)?
Our goal is not prosperity, but rather true quality of life and dignity for all. And we work each day in hopes of decreasing our membership list. This 2011 I may be the only pastor in the country who would rejoice if my membership dropped by 50%.
Have a blessed holiday season, pray for San Francisco and the high suicide rate that we have this time of the year. And thank you for being an encourager, supporter or follower of this mega-ministry!
Pastor Megan Rohrer
1751 Sacramento St
Location:Polk Gulch, San Francisco