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Community Works

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At the Community Engagement Center, there is a room off the hallway. It’s a small room, perhaps 6 feet wide and 8 feet deep, and it contains a table and four chairs. In the building’s former life as part of a church, the room had been set up as a small prayer chapel, and the sign that says “prayer room” is still mounted over the doorway. We haven’t gotten around to removing it yet, and pretty much the whole community calls it the prayer room.

The prayer room is the room where much of the actual work of our Center gets done, because it is the one room in our entire building where you can shut a door and have a private meeting. The weekly one-on-one meetings with staff members happen there, as do meetings with would-be volunteers. It is the place we go when we need to have a private conversation, like when two staff members disagree and I am brought in to mediate, or when I need to have a conversation with a guest about the way he acted toward another guest. Sometimes guests use it as a meeting place with their caseworkers or peer support specialists.

It’s also the room where we interview potential employees, so for the last three weeks, I have been spending a ton of time in this little room. We have interviewed ten people for the Director of Operations position, some of them multiple times. Every meeting has happened in that meeting room. So it probably makes sense that I have a couple of stories that happened last week in that room that sum up life here in our community for me.

We are without a lot of storage, and this room has the only door that locks, so sometimes we stick things in there to deal with “later.” Sometimes this leads to awkward situations. Recently, a volunteer stuck 20 sleeping bags in there, blocking most of the floor, just minutes before I interviewed an applicant.

The applicant looked at the pile of bags on the floor, then looked at me and asked, “Where are they supposed to go?”

I looked back at her. “If you are hired, it will be your job to decide that.”

“Oh,” she said. “So right now, they just get stuck in here, and you just deal with it?”

“Exactly. We just deal with it.”

Later that day, another applicant sat in the same chair as all the other applicants had before her, staring at the same wall of sleeping bags we’ve amassed without comment. She was asked to share with us, as far as she felt comfortable, a personal story from her childhood that was meaningful to her. (This is a great question, by the way, as it tells you a ton about the person you are interviewing.)

She got emotional during the telling of her story (which is fine), and she reached for the box of Kleenex on the table (which is there because lots of people get emotional in that room). As she pulled the tissue from the box, we all suddenly realized that it wasn’t tissue she held, but the paper towels that normally go in the bathroom towel dispenser. Someone had refilled the tissue box with rough, brown paper towels.

She laughed, and we all laughed, and it was a little embarrassing, and then we went on with the interview. But inside, I wasn’t just laughing, I was swelling with pride. A guest had seen that we were out of tissue in the box, realized we had no more tissue, and used their creativity to solve the problem. And didn’t even feel the need to tell anyone.

In other words, for the ten minutes it must have took for that to happen, the guest took ownership of the problem, and, within the limits of their capability, solved the problem.

They owned the problem, and then solved it. That is how you know someone feels as if they belong. That is how you know you have developed community. At that minute, in the middle of an interview, I knew that this crazy experiment we have created here, works.

So on that day, we didn’t look our best to someone who was new to our community, someone who may well become a part of our community. But it is better she learn now that we are not always pretty, or neat, or well organized, but we are always a community. And that is OK with us.

Related: Sometimes This Stuff Works

 

If you’d like to be in conversation with us, please make sure to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

Fighting The Status Quo

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“It’s a little chaotic right now.”

I told someone that the other day, as an explanation as to why I hadn’t been good at staying in touch. She gave me the side-eye and said, “That’s what you said a few months ago, too.”

Sadly, both of us are right.

Right now is just super chaotic. We are in the midst of spinning off the new Love Wins Community Engagement Center; I am conducting multiple interviews every day as we try to find the right person for our Director of Operations; we are preparing to get two interns and add another full-time position this summer; preparing for the next big project that will, if all goes well, be unveiled next Friday and, oh yeah, we still have 80 to 100 folks coming through the doors every damn day, expecting hospitality and welcome and a place to be, because, well, that is what we do.

And she isn’t wrong. Several months ago we were super chaotic, planning the next big project (which was to spin off the Community Engagement Center), fighting the cold weather, writing the job description for the new position, writing a grant that will enable us to hire the full-time person this summer, filling out paperwork (endlessly), and, oh yeah, dealing with 80 to 100 folks coming through the doors every damn day, expecting hospitality and welcome and a place to be, because, well, that is what we do.

The point is, it doesn’t stop. It will always be chaotic, because a) we are way understaffed and b) the list of things we can do is endless and c) for all our colleagues’ talk of ending homelessness, homelessness seems to be holding its own in the fight.

As long as there is an “other,” there needs to be a place for them to just be. And as long as I am here, we will be that place.

And the reality is, that work – the work of holding space, of holding power loosely so the community can build itself, the work of making sure the place is safe but being non-coercive in doing it – that work is hard. It is hard when everything goes right. It is hard when everything is working according to plan.

Because what we are doing here – holding safe space, making sure people have a place to be, accompanying the loneliness that accompanies homelessness, loving people whom the world has given up on – to do that is to fight against the status quo. None of that is default behavior. None of that comes easy.

The truth about this work: it is hard.

It just is.

That doesn’t negate the fact that I am ridiculously happy I have gotten to do it for close to 10 years. And yes, the work is hard, but often beautiful glimpses of the better world we all believe to be possible shine through. And sometimes, we win. None of that is negated, but none of that comes easy.

And that’s OK.

Related: Some Days, Hope is Hard

 

If you’d like to be in conversation with us, please make sure to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

What Is The Hardest Part

Trigger Warning: The following post makes mention of serial sexual assault. Please do what you need to take care of yourself if you choose to read.

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What is the hardest part of this job?

An applicant for the new Director of Operations position asked me that this week. We are currently in the middle of interviews, and while we are exhausted by the process, it is important we get the right person.

I told her that was a good question, and it is. I just am not sure I have a good answer for it.

I ended up tell her that the most difficult part of the job, in fact, the most difficult part of doing this work in general, is how reactive it is.

Every morning, I get up, make myself a cup of coffee and get out my old-school Franklin Planner and make a list of my planned activities for the day, ordered by priority, just like they taught me all those years ago in corporate sales school. It is a heck of a list, ordered in order of priority, with the three most important things to do for the day highlighted.

But that list is entirely aspirational, because as soon as I get to the office, Emily comes in and tells me that last night she was raped, and she asks if I can help her talk to the police. Or Steven is having a manic episode, and he needs someone to talk it down with him. Or Shirley has a panic attack, and she needs someone to be with her and reassure her she is safe.

Or someone we have never seen before comes by with food, which makes us very happy, but we have to make sure the food is put away. Or Danny needs his resume printed. Or Shelia wants to know how to enroll in the local community college. Maria asks if we can look up her daughter, who she hasn’t seen in years, on the Internet. Marvin, who isn’t fully mentally competent, comes by to tell me that he is going to a group home – he thinks – but he can’t find the paper that gives him his appointment times.

None of that was on that to-do list.

The inability to plan your work for most of your workweek has to be the hardest part.

But I have thought about it, and then I remembered the cold, snowy days in the winter. The days when we close at five, and it is 4:50pm and our friends are packing their things to leave. You know they have nowhere to stay that night, and it is wet and cold. You tell them all goodnight. You close the door behind them. Then you get in my car, turn on the heater, and drive past them as they trudge in the snow to the bus stop. You head home to your nice warm house. Dinner is prepared and waiting for you.

That might be the hardest part.

Or maybe it’s when you work with Billy for months, helping to make sure he makes his meetings, you help remove obstacles, you celebrate his 30 days, and then his 60 days and then his 90 days of sobriety, and then you have to go visit him in jail because he was arrested when they raided the meth house.

Or it’s seeing Stephanie return to her abuser, because it is getting cold outside now and she doesn’t have anywhere safe to go, and while he may beat the crap out of her, at least she has a warm bed to sleep in there.

Or it is having your illusions stripped away when you have been doing this work for a few months, and you meet an incredibly smart and beautiful woman who is partnered with a man who brings her nothing but trouble. She is obviously frustrated with the relationship. And when you ask why she doesn’t leave, she tells you that the first month she was on the streets, she was raped three times. While this guy is a jerk, he protects her from everyone else, and after all, it’s better to be raped by one guy regularly and predictably than lots of guys randomly. And sometimes, he’s even nice to her.

That might have been the hardest part.

But then you give it a lot of thought and realize that no matter how hard it was for you to hear that, it pales in comparison to her living that. And then you realize that the hardest part isn’t borne by you, but by the lives of the people you have come to love. And that your job isn’t to fix people, but to accompany them on a long hard journey.

That isn’t what I told the applicant that day. But it’s what I wish I had.

Related: The Interruptions Are Our Work

 

If you’d like to be in conversation with us, please make sure to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

A Framework For Understanding Homelessness

We’re hosting an event, and we’d love to have you! Here’s a quick look at the details:

What: A seminar, Framework For Understanding Homelessness
When: Tuesday, March 22, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Trinity United Methodist Fellowship Hall (824 N. Bloodworth St. Raleigh, NC 27604)
Why: To workshop. To collaborate. To shoot some video. And, to have fun!
Want to join us? Click here to register.

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I am doing something I rarely do. I am hosting a local speaking event that is open to the public. And I need your help.

As you may know, some 15 or 20 times a year, I get on a plane and go somewhere else and talk (usually at a college, church, or a conference) about homelessness and community. Most of those events are closed to the public.

Occasionally I will speak someplace locally, but those are usually closed events, too.

So next Tuesday evening, I am doing a small workshop here in Raleigh completely open to the public. I will share my Framework for Understanding Homelessness, complete with a question and answer session.

I have two goals with this:

1) I am reformatting some of my talk, and I want to test the new ideas on a live audience and get your feedback on whether they work or not.

That’s right – I am going to workshop my talk. You get to help me get better.

2) My second goal is to capture some footage of me in front of an audience. We are trying to put together a promotional video for meeting planners who want to see a sample of what I do before they invite me to come speak, and we need some new footage of me presenting in front of an audience. So you also get to help us share our work more.

Think of this as a party. There will be heavy snacks if you didn’t have a chance to grab dinner before you come, and we will have a blast. Please register by clicking here, so we know how many people to expect.

I can’t wait to see you there!
Hugh

 

If you’d like to be in conversation with us, please make sure to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

Keeper of Memories

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I was putting some things away in my cubicle at work the other day, and I came across THE BOX.

My workspace is pretty chaotic. As a primarily visual person with a ton of ADHD, there are at any given time a number of boxes in my cubicle. But only one is THE BOX.

THE BOX is the holder of the dreams of the people I minister to. It’s like a poor man’s Ark of the Covenant, where my community has put our collective hopes and memories.

It looks like an ordinary box, made of cardboard. It originally contained whiskey of dubious quality, but now it holds a variety of things, for this is the box where I put things people ask me to hold.

One example: There is a small, blue velvet jewelry box, one you might expect to hold a ring. Instead it holds a small stainless steel capsule, about the diameter of your index finger, and the capsule is threaded on a tarnished silver-coated chain. The capsule contains some of the ashes of the grandfather of a woman I once knew.

This woman was living at the shelter, and her backpack had been stolen the night before. So she found me that morning in Moore Square and pulled me aside. We spoke in conspiratorial tones, interspersed with furtive glances. She slipped me the velvet box and explained that she didn’t want anything to happen to it. Her grandfather, it turned out, had helped raise her, and this was her only reminder of him. Would I be willing to hold it for her, until called for?

I have held it now for more than six years. I still see her occasionally, and she asks if I still have it. I tell her I do, and ask if she wants it back.

“No,” she says. “This way I know it’s safe.”

In the bottom of the box is a Bible in a really dirty and stained Purpose Driven Life zip up cover. Mike gave it to me about four years ago now. He came to our Hospitality House and asked for a meeting with me.

Mike was from Richmond, and his substance abuse problems had ended his marriage and dissolved his relationships with his kids. He had come here looking for a new start, but his addiction followed him.

He told me that this Bible was the one his grandmother gave him when he was baptized at a revival when he was a teenager. His name is in gilt on the cover of the faux leather, and his name is written in a feminine hand on the presentation page.

The Bible is like a record of his life since then. There is a church bulletin from the late ‘90’s. An offering envelope from a church in New York. On special pages are the dates of his marriage and the dates and names of his kids and the date of his grandmother’s death.

Mike was in and out of rehab a lot the three years I knew him. He would have fits of sobriety, followed by months of relapse. He asked me that day to hold onto his Bible until he “was better,” because he knew he was going to lose it.

The last time I saw Mike, he was doing great. I asked if he was ready for the Bible back, and he told me not quite yet. He then disappeared, and we didn’t see him for a while. We later learned Mike died in a ditch on a rainy night, having overdosed on paint fumes. We didn’t find out until weeks later.

In the days after I learned of his death, I have paged through his Bible many times, looking for answers. Thus far, the answers are elusive.

The box has other things. Wooden crosses. New Testaments. Pictures of babies. A keyring of keys. An envelope containing a dead man’s medical records. The receipt from the crematorium for the cremation of a stillborn baby. The bulletin for a funeral I performed. A rabbit’s foot that looks like it survived a war.

As pastor to this community, it is a given I will be trusted with their stories. I just never expected to be the keeper of their memories as well.

Related Content: But I’m Not A Pastor, The Business  We Have Chosen

 

If you’d like to be in conversation with us, please make sure to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

Come Work For Us

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As I said last week, there are changes afoot at Love Wins. Our decision to separate the hospitality house (now known as The Love Wins Community Engagement Center) into its own organization was huge, and has lots of implications for our community.

Here is one of them: We need someone to lead the new organization. The title is Director of Operations, and the goal is for us to hire someone to run the daily operations, to manage the small staff, and to provide a calm and grounding presence for our community members.

This isn’t the Executive Director, which is more of a legal role, but more like a Chief Operations Officer, if we were a gagillion dollar organization. The link to the actual job description is at the bottom of this post, but I wanted to talk about the job for a minute.

Hiring is always difficult for us. We want people who are compassionate and have a genuine sense of vocation around working with our population, but we also recognize that there aren’t a lot of places like us, so the odds of finding someone with the exact skill set we need isn’t high.

We have tended to hire people young in their career, with the idea that it is easier to train someone to do a specific skill than it is to train them to be kind, or to listen. If you have spent 32 years at the Holy Gospel Rescue Mission, and liked it there, it would be really hard for you to work here.

So here are some real world, no corprate double-speak thoughts on what this person needs to know to be successful here.

  • This work can be emotionally draining and demands emotional health. We will fight to make sure you have plenty of time away from the office to rejuvenate, but you will have to be good at protecting your time off and maintaining healthy boundaries.
  • We tend to avoid micromanagement and would much rather come alongside you, helping you set goals to accomplish. If you need help achieving them, we are happy to help. So don’t be afraid to ask. No one has ever lost their job here because they asked for help!
  • We believe the stuff we say about community. We aren’t just asking you to work with us – we are inviting you into our lives, and the lives of our guests. Hiring new people scares us – a lot – simply because we are very protective of our guests. If you’re willing to commit to being a part of something like a large, loud, fun, complex extended family, than we are the place for you. If not, you should look elsewhere.
  • We don’t have clients. Clients are transactional, and the language opposes the language of community. Instead, we have guests, who we invite to be part of our safe space, where, as Henri Nouwen puts it, “the stranger can become a friend.”
  • We need applicants with a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. And please note: if you believe that you can “fix” our guests and community members with said strong work ethic, this is probably not the place for you.
  • We really, really need you to want to care about our guests, and you also need to really, really care about the team you work with, too. We have a very collaborative team of people here, who have developed strong relationships with each other. Like working with a team of awesome people? Then we need you!

In short, we want someone who is passionate about this work, and who isn’t afraid to make decisions. The ideal candidate will know how to respectfully delegate. You should like people and conversation, and especially important, be able to actively listen. If you apply, you need to be willing to suspend your judgement. Our guests do not need one more person in their life who is going to judge them, but crave people who will accept and respect them.

As we are fond of saying, the opposite of homelessness is not housing. The opposite of homeless is community. If that not only resonates, but you want to shout, “Yeah!” and throw a clenched fist in the air, we invite you to apply.

You can see the job description, and application instructions, here.

 

 

Changes at Love Wins Ministries

Yesterday, a version of this announcement went out to our newsletter subscribers. If you want to be sure you get the latest updates on our community, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter here.  – HH

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When Love Wins Ministries started, we didn’t have a Hospitality House. For nearly five years, Love Wins lived entirely on the streets. We counseled and listened, had a chapel service, shared food in the park on the weekends, and trained faith communities in how to do this work. But we didn’t have a home.

Over the last five years, we have worked to create safe space, a true home for this diverse and thriving community that has formed around our Hospitality House. Our offices are there, our staff has grown up there, and we are very proud of what we do there.

It is also incredibly expensive to do it. It accounts for more than 85% of our budget and 90% of our time. It requires at least three trained full-time people. For the last five years, I have been one of those full time people. This means that I am not writing things, or counseling nearly as many people. I am not training faith communities to do this work and, most importantly, I am not working on making the organization sustainable. All of that puts the safety and stability of our community at risk.

So, we are making some changes.

Over the next few weeks our Hospitality House, a program of Love Wins Ministries, will transition to become an independent nonprofit corporation, The Love Wins Community Engagement Center. We are in the process of applying for 501c3 status for it, and it has a separate governing board. We are becoming two separate organizations: Love Wins Ministries and The Love Wins Community Engagement Center.

Love Wins Ministries will initially employee a part-time administrative assistant and me. Its mission will remain the same, to provide a ministry of relationship and presence to the homeless and housing vulnerable population of Raleigh, and provide training and education around how to do that in your community.

The Love Wins Community Engagement Center will employee three people to run the daily operations, manage the volunteers, care for the community, and provide hospitality. Just like we have always done.

Some of us will be changing staff titles and roles over the coming weeks, and initially, I will temporarily be the Director of both organizations. And while I will always be involved as the founder of both organizations, eventually my daily life will be less focused on running a Community Engagement Center and more focused on running Love Wins Ministries.

As far as funding goes, Love Wins Ministries has committed to be the primary funder of the Community Engagement Center the first year, and a major funder after that. In other words, continue to make your donations as you do now, and we will fund the daily operations of the new facility. But eventually, it will transition to raising money on its own, and we also intend to pursue outside funding from grants, foundations, and other organizations. We will keep you informed.

I should also say that the transition will cost us a couple of thousand dollars in administrative costs. If you want to help us cover that, you can donate here.

To be clear, we are not abandoning the Hospitality House. It is just growing up. Love Wins Ministries will always be involved. We have three board seats on its five-person board, of which I am serving as chair. I am committed to remaining there as long as I am useful. The ethos and community based nature of the Hospitality House will not change. The only change will be our ability to do this work for a long time into the future.

Love Wins Ministries will be even more active as we use the newfound margin to develop ways to do large scale street outreach; focus on our worshiping community at the weekly chapel service; and create materials that teach others how to do this work, in both secular and faith-based contexts.

Next week, I will use our blog to answer lots of questions about how this will happen and share more details. Until then, please know that we think this time of growth is scary, but important.

We are so incredibly grateful for your support that enables us to do this bigger, better thing for our community.

 

If you’d like to be in conversation with us, please make sure to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

Changes Ahead

 

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When I was in my twenties, I was in sales. Like, imagine Glengarry Glen Ross type of sales meetings. And one thing those types of organizations love to do is send you to sales training, where they “motivate” you. One thing I was told stuck with me.

“Sharks will drown if they stop moving,” the trainer said.  “If you want to be a shark, you have to keep moving.”

Disclosure: I know nothing about fish, other than I like to eat catfish and salmon, and I don’t like mackerel. But I do like the metaphor that if sharks don’t keep moving, they die. Because for better or worse, I like to move.

In the nine years I have done this work, there have been lots of changes. In the beginning, I was hanging out in the park and the soup kitchens. I was speaking to churches. I was kicked out of some churches. I became we. We started chapel services. We shared food in the park. We were threatened with arrest for doing that. We opened a hospitality house. We hired lots of people. Some of those people left, and we hired more. We moved to a different location. We planted a garden.

Always moving. Always changing.

As much as I like things to change, I also recognize that one thing the people I work with need most in their life is stability. When your life is in a constant state of chaos, you crave a place that isn’t in chaos. So as much as change is built into the DNA here at Love Wins Ministries, we also know that change is really, really hard. So we don’t do it capriciously, but only when the change is ultimately going to further our goals of building community.

Over the next six weeks or so, we will be making some huge changes here at Love Wins. Some of them will be scary, and some of them will seem brilliant (at least, I hope they will), and some will be confusing. But know that they are all designed to further our goal of building community as a means of addressing homelessness, and to assure that we will be here to do that for a long, long time to come.

So watch for our first (and arguably, largest) announcement next week. If you are the praying sort, pray for us and our folks. Because as much as we need to keep moving, change is hard.

Related Content: Most People Don’t Change, Cranberry Juice And Chaos 

 

A Statement Of Peace

This is an excerpt from a sermon entitled, “Christ the King,” that Hugh gave last year. It’s a great reminder that lasting societal peace comes from caring for those society has forgotten, the disenfranchised and the disempowered.
If you’d like to invite Hugh to speak to your church or group, please email Elizabeth here. Peace, Jasmin

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“The statement that Jesus is lord, or Christ is king, isn’t just a quaint church phrase, divorced from reality. To the early Christians, who lived in a world where a common greeting was, Caesar is lord, it was a political statement.

The ‘peace’ brought by Rome – a peace brought about by fear and domination, enforced by the largest army the world had ever known, kept in place by the threat of horrible violence – to say Jesus was your king was to speak of another way to live. In a world that lived under Rome’s ‘peace,’ to speak this way pointed to a peace brought about by love and mercy.

It spoke of their dream of another world, the age to come when God would reign. It spoke of a time when, as the author of Revelation says, ‘The kingdoms of this world would become the kingdom of our God, and of God’s Christ, who would reign forever and ever.’

It was a statement of hope. It was a commitment to change, to work to make the world as it is, into the world as it was meant to be.

And today we look around, and we see a world in turmoil. We see a world wracked in chaos, a world that is on fire and burning. Paris. Beirut. Ferguson. Baltimore. Baghdad. The polar ice caps. The rising shoreline. The mass extinctions. Earthquakes. Childhood poverty.

We look around us, and we see the good world that God made lying in shambles, and the solution we are presented with by our governments is inevitably more war. If there are people involved, we declare war on them. If it is a nebulous concept, like poverty, illegal drugs, or terrorism, well, that doesn’t slow us down at all. We will declare war on that, too.

As Americans, war gives our lives structure and meaning. It is our founding story, our war for independence. A hundred years later, we had a war to save the Union. Then in the thirties, we were starving in the throes of the Great Depression, but the Great War saved us. After that war, we didn’t know how to live, so we invented the idea of a Cold War. It wasn’t a real war, but we had to pretend it was and prepare as if it was.  

We as a people, steeped in war, born in war, do not know how to live without war. Peace through war.

In this environment, to speak of Jesus as king is a statement of hope, a declaration not of war, but of peace.

A peace that comes not from aggression, war, or conflict, but from caring for and safeguarding those who are on the bottom of society.

When God is king, no one is left behind. In the kingdom of God, everyone counts, and all are fed.”

Related Content: They Call It Grace

 

If you’d like to be in conversation with us, please make sure to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

Maintaining Safe Space

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In our hospitality house, we work to create what we call Safe Space – a place not bound by dividing lines, but where the stranger can enter and become a friend. Our primary job is to create space where community can happen, because community contains all the things necessary for us to live a good life.

But it is not merely enough to build community. You also have to protect it. Because community is not static – it is in flux, just like any other living thing. Community isn’t something you check off your list, but rather a process you enter into, or a practice you engage.

Last Friday, I wrote the second most read post in our history – only the post that kicked off #biscuitgate was shared more. And the comments on that post are atrocious. Some of them were downright scary. We deleted the ones that were vulgar or physically threatening, but still.

The reality is, I would not allow anyone to come onto our hospitality house and talk to one of our guests like that. I would not allow anyone to come in our offices and talk to our staff like that. To talk that way to someone is to disregard their humanity, and to threaten their safety. It violates Safe Space, and it is antithetical to community.

If I could not make our community safe, I would close the hospitality house. It would be the only responsible thing to do. Likewise, I will not allow people to use our platform for their spewing of hate and meanness. I will not do it.

As a result, we will be removing the comment feature on all sites owned and operated by Love Wins Ministries. If we can’t make it safe for everyone, we won’t play.

Yes, I know it is possible to build community in the comments – but that requires hours of moderation that our small organization just does not have. And while there is filter software that can detect if you are a spammer, there is, sadly, not software yet that can determine if you are a jerk.

This makes me sad. The comments of some of our posts have encouraged me, inspired me, and given me hope. It is a shame to lose that. But the people who commented on that post are not in community with us, they do not know us, they do not care about us – they just wanted a space to spew anger on the internet. And while there are numerous places to do that, none of those places will be led by me.

There are still ways to be in conversation with us. We are very active on Facebook and Twitter, and we read all our email. But the very best way is to come see us. Sit down with us and have a cup of coffee. We hope you’ll feel the pleasure and comfort found in Safe Space, where you enter as a stranger and, hopefully, leave as a friend.