GNW ‘ministry that matters’ about housing takes shape

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People standing in prayer at a church
Rev. Shalom Agtarap leads participants in a centering prayer activity at the Housing God's Beloved training event Nov. 4 at Parkrose UMC in Portland.

With more than 200 people participating in a training event and a new half-time ordained elder appointed, the Greater Northwest Area’s focus on housing all God’s beloved as a missional priority is now becoming a reality.

States across the west, including Oregon, have declared houselessness an emergency and cities such as Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Wash., and more have made similar declarations as the lack of affordable housing continues to climb.

United Methodist Churches and other ecumenical partners across the area are poised to respond.

Rev. Julia Nielsen leads a discussion on the steps churches can begin taking to assess whether they can develop affordable housing on church property.

“I think, practically, the need is just so high, and the extreme cost of housing puts pressure on so many people,” said Rev. Brett Pinder, newly-appointed missional strategist for housing ministries that matter. “This is a way that churches can engage and discern with their broader community.”

Pinder’s appointment was announced at the Housing God’s Beloved summit held Nov. 4 in a hybrid setting at Parkrose UMC in Portland and online. People from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska participated either in-person or online, with additionally viewers from California and Michigan. Presenters talked about everything from the roots of houselessness to how to create a 90-day plan moving forward.

Small group discussions focused on how to engage with neighbors who question affordable housing projects such as houseless shelters on church property, how to have sacred one-on-one conversations with parishioners and how to leverage financial resources to conduct feasibility studies.

People attended from churches and ministry settings where they are just starting to offer housing services such as shelter or are in the midst of building an affordable housing apartment complex on unused property.

“It’s inspiring to watch individuals engage in deep, meaningful conversations about what the future might hold for their housing ministries and share ideas and common knowledge,” said Laurie Day, director of connectional ministries for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. “It’s evident this is just the start of many more holy conversations around the need to address this pressing issue of equitable and affordable housing for all.”

In his new position, Pinder’s goal is to accompany congregations and ministry settings as they walk this path toward housing solutions and connect them to necessary resources as they consider how best to use their land, people and money to create fair and equitable solutions.

“There’s already a spectrum of where churches are at,” he said. “We have churches ready to call a developer and churches discerning what direction they might take.”

While many congregations, such as Portsmouth Union in Portland, started this work years ago, Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth has called on everyone in the Greater Northwest Area to be more like the Good Samaritan in scripture and “go and do likewise” through the M.I.L.E. initiative which looks at ministries that matter in areas of health and housing (M), itineration and location of pastors (I), lay ministry enhancement (L), and eliminating racism (E).

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Kristen Caldwell
A mom, a writer, a wannabe runner, Kristen Caldwell calls Vancouver, Wash., home and loves getting to tell stories of the people and places that make up the Greater Northwest Area.

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