The Longest Night
It is December 21st, winter solstice, the shortest day, but also the longest night of the year. We celebrate this time of year with lights and candles to illuminate the darkness.We look forward to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Joy and hope are our refrain.
Remembering The Homeless
December 21st is also the day our Chattanooga Community Kitchen hosts its annual Homeless Memorial Service for those who have died this past year in homelessness. Today, the day of the longest, darkest night of 2016, we remembered those we had lost.
A few years ago I participated in this memorial. The mayor of our city was there, therefore the local news was there. Sometimes homelessness is news, other times it is not. Often people may volunteer for Thanksgiving or maybe near Christmas; the rest of the year it really doesn’t cross our minds.
That year the day room was packed with over 200 people. I was asked to lead a prayer, which I did, but at the end I decided to close with The Lord’s Prayer because I knew most people would be familiar with it, if they were familiar with anything. Just a few words in, I was overwhelmed as it seemed every person in the room was praying “Our Father…” all together. It was such a moment of solidarity and equality. The mayor, the staff, the homeless, others, and I all prayed; no one higher or lower, just “Our Father” and each of his children.
Today there was no news crew, no mayor, just the homeless community, the staff of the center, and me. 23 names were read, each a person who had died “homeless” this past year, then a bell rang in remembrance of them. Then one last bell rang. It rang in remembrance of those who had died this past year, unknown and in the darkness. One day this circumstance will be no more. Come, Lord Jesus!
From Darkness to Light
Tomorrow, just a few days before Christmas, I’ll return to the Community Kitchen to offer Morning Prayers and Communion. The “Our Father” will be prayed by many in the day room there, in unity and solidarity. Tomorrow the day will be a little longer, there will be a little bit more light, and the darkness will be a little less. Come, Lord Jesus!
Father Dale Hall began ministry in 1987 at Calvary Baptist Church, in Rome, Georgia, while in college. He’s been a social worker and crisis counselor, as well as a Vineyard pastor. Now he’s an Anglican priest serving at The Mission, in Chattanooga, where he leads several ministries, and lives with his wife Kimberly. They have two sons and a daughter in law.