Skid Row Homeless Special Guests at Banquet

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 3, 2010) – Evangelical Covenant churches partnered with the Fred Jordan Mission to help kick off the first Origins event with “The Banquet on The Row,” at which the homeless were the invited guests.

Organizers estimated that at least 1,500 people attended the feast, which was held over two blocks that had been cordoned off in the Skid Row section of Los Angeles. The congregations of Newsong Los Angeles, Newsong Irvine, and Rolling Hills Covenant Church in Rolling Hills Estates collaborated with the Fred Jordan Mission to organize the banquet.

The fledgling Origins Project, which is led by pastors and laity of varied churches and denominations, organized the event. The Origins website describes the project as a network of “friends, pioneers, social entrepreneurs, misfits, leaders, business people, artists and innovators who want to dream and work together rather than alone in participating in God’s mission in this world.”

The event included worship music. A message given by Rolling Hills Pastor Byron MacDonald was based on Luke 7:38-50, in which Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for viewing a woman who wiped his feet only as a sinner rather than a broken human being. Following the message, Newsong Los Angeles Pastor Adam Edgerly gave an altar call.

Eight pastors led a breaking bread ritual. Volunteers sat at each of the tables with the honored guests. As part of the ritual, the pastors and volunteers broke loaves of bread as a symbolic way of saying, “We want to break bread with you,” said Walter Contreras, Pacific Southwest Conference director of outreach and Hispanic ministries. Contreras is a former director of the Fred Jordan Mission.

MacDonald said of the ritual that, “The song and spiritual meaning of breaking bread together and the joy of doing it will echo with joy in my spirit for a long time.”

The dinner included chicken and other traditional items. Dessert was co-created by a master chef from Australia who was attending the Origins event as well as a chef who is a member of Rolling Hills Covenant Church.

More people showed up than was expected, so organizers temporarily ran out of food. However, the two chefs combined their culinary skills to create new dishes for the gathering, Contreras said. “Every homeless person got a meal.”

Following the meal and time of sharing, volunteers distributed bags of food and personal hygiene items. The banquet culminated a day of service at several ministries in the city. Among the many activities, participants engaged in advocacy, prayer for the community, assisting ministry to children, as well as building beautification and rehab projects.

Church volunteers and conference participants were sent with three purposes, Contreras said:

  • They were to do more than serve the homeless – “You are here to encounter Christ. You are here to see the face of Christ in the homeless.”
  • As they distributed supplies and met physical needs, they also were to share their faith.
  • They were instructed to invite people to the banquet – the volunteers were sent out twice, just as in the story Jesus told of invitations being sent out twice for people to join a banquet. That included fanning out across the neighborhood to extend invitations.

Contreras told the story of one young homeless man who had followed him and volunteers for several blocks. They turned to him and asked if he might want to stay at the mission and participate in a program to help turn his life around. The group prayed for him and settled him in at the mission. The top photo shows Contreras and Rebecca Gibbons praying with one of the homeless individuals in Skid Row. The lower photo shows MacDonald and others distributing food and hygiene bags. See additional photos below.

The second day of the conference was held at a quite different venue, the nightclub known as Club Nokia. Speakers included Newsong Irvine Pastor Dave Gibbons, Contreras, and Stephen “Cue” Jean Marie, discipleship pastor at Newsong Los Angeles. Panel discussions and other opportunities for dialogue also were presented.

During his message, Gibbons told the gathering that churches must be aware of three dangers: operating as usual, promoting individualism, and becoming a brand.

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