by Rev. Schaunel Steinnagel
Thank you to Ardmore Presbyterian Church for all your support of The Welcome Church and my position with The Welcome Church as Associate Pastor. The Welcome Church is truly an ecumenical ministry, which receives support from both within the Presbytery of Philadelphia and the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). What a year this has been! Homelessness certainly has not decreased. I feel like we are still continuing to reinvent everything that we do, in this changeful year.
In the spring, The Welcome Church and many friends started a new program, Welcome Bread, when the building that had housed our weekly “not-a-lunch-program” closed for the pandemic; now at least 17 congregations (including volunteers from APC) produce some 2,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches per week, going to people who are experiencing homelessness and/or food insecurity in the greater Philadelphia area. Over 75,000 sandwiches, in total, have been delivered. We continue to help meet some of people’s most basic needs.
We have not forgotten that we are a Church. When it first became unwise to gather with people on the Ben Franklin Parkway for services of worship, even outdoors, I began to go to the Parkway on the first Sunday of each month, beginning on Palm Sunday 2020, leaving a poster with a note or prayer on it, together with some sort of “transitional object” that people could take; and then we were able to hold worship on the Parkway for some months, and now we are back to not holding public gatherings. People continue to be out on the Parkway, and they ask when we will return! We have been blessed, this year, with a couple of students who are in preparation for ministry, and they have been helpful with our presence on the Parkway, both visiting regularly, and walking around with our “Welcome Wagon.” The Wagon has been a wonderful COVID-era adaptation of our Coffee Hours, because food can keep moving, and people do not have to line up or cluster. We hope to return to the Parkway for services, in January. Broad use of internet-based connection with many who are a part of The Welcome Church is not possible due to lack of access to technology, but we continue to use Facebook, and people can contact the pastors through Facebook Messenger. We have started holding monthly gatherings of the Women’s Group of The Welcome Church over Zoom.
The Well, the shelter for women founded by The Welcome Church, continues its ministry. Supporters of The Welcome Church ship or drop off needed items to my house, and I drive them to The Well weekly. We continue to invite people to prepare and drop off meals for the women of The Well.
The Welcome Church has long supported and provided for artistic projects among people whom we know. Some people, whom we have encountered, are extremely gifted artists, and many other people find an experience of healing and peace while doing art. We are now organizing all of our art programs and calling it “Welcome Art”! Welcome Art has continued to grow and develop, even in this time of separation. One thing I have been able to bring to The Well is “Knit Kits” (yarn, knitting needles, knitting patterns), for those who either already knit or who want to learn.
We have continued to provide Welcome Home Kits, when people move from homelessness to housing.
Who knows what 2021 will present to any of us? 2020 has been apocalyptic, in that it has been revealing of need that has been there all along, and we do not always pay heed. If a stay-at-home order is announced, and not everyone has a home to which to go, or the only way that a person can get a meal is to line up somewhere outside, then we are called to healing in our midst. I am committed to seeing what new forms The Welcome Church is going to take on in 2021. We are still waiting to learn if any buildings of our partner churches will be able to open safely, so that we can potentially return to Teatime and weekly Bible Study. The Welcome Church has formed a community, and people still look for us, to be a part of their lives.
If you would like additional information about The Welcome Church and what we are currently doing or how you can help, please contact Schaunel Steinnagel at 302-463-0542 (cell).