Church of the Reconciler offers Christ’s presence to Birmingham's homeless

3/18/2016

“Church of the Reconciler can be a messy, disorganized, and confusing place. It also can be a grace-filled, redemptive, and holy place – just like the ministry of Jesus and his disciples,” says Senior Pastor Rev. Matt Lacey.
 
The downtown Birmingham church offers programing familiar to many United Methodist Churches – worship and Sunday school on Sunday, Bible studies throughout the week and opportunities for the congregation to enjoy fellowship and meals together.  Other ministries of the Church of Reconciler are more unique and more specific to its context of ministry with people who are homeless in Birmingham. The church’s weekly schedule also includes opportunities for medical care, a transportation ministry, housing assistance, an intervention group and a weekday hot breakfast. The leaders of the Church of the Reconciler also understand that just being a place for someone to receive his or her mail or to find an open restroom is meeting real needs of many of its members and participants who spend most of their time on the streets.
 
The church website acknowledges to people, “you are accepted at Church of the Reconciler because you are loved by God.”  A key component of the ministries of the church is showing God’s love to and building relationships with people as they come to the programs of Reconciler. Staff and volunteers get to know them and their needs. 
 
North Alabama Conference Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett says, “Church of the Reconciler is truly a place where strangers are welcomed . . . the hungry are fed . . . those in prison are visited . . . and the sick receive medical care. (Matthew 25:40) Christ’s presence is evident in those serving and those being served through this remarkable ministry with the homeless in downtown Birmingham.”
 
The congregation, which began in 1993, understands its vision to be “a congregation that worships together on Sunday and works together during the week to live out God’s call for reconciliation.”
 
Sometimes, that ministry of reconciliation can get messy. Last month Church of the Reconciler made headlines, not for the good it does or for the lives its ministry is changing, but because of an act of violence that happened just outside its doors. On February 24, during the morning’s hot breakfast, two men began arguing and went outside where gunshots were fired. One man received minor injuries and was release from the hospital after a few hours.
 
In a statement the next day responding to the incident, Rev. Lacey said, “I'm not going to go on about ‘this is something that could happen anywhere’ because though that might be true, the violence we saw yesterday happens far too often in the lives of the folks we try and help.  The folks who come to Reconciler live with this reality everyday.”
 
Thus, the Church of the Reconciler continues its unwavering commitment to provide ministries to bring the hope and love of Jesus Christ to those who walk through its doors, especially those who are homeless.
 
Throughout Reconciler's history, that ministry has been made possible through partnerships with other congregations and through the support of dedicated donors and volunteers.
 
“People often ask how they can help,” Rev. Lacey says. “Of course, one of the things I tell them is ‘We'd be more than happy to take your money!’  We also have the need for volunteers serving meals or to donate clothing, or many other things. But the most important thing is being a presence with those who are living on the margins of society.  Eat with them.  Pray with them. Ask them their names. Talk to them about football. And learn to see that they are created in God's image just like you and me. That is the most important and powerful thing you can do and it does what no money can buy.”
 
Monetary donations help make sure Reconciler can provide people food to eat, medical care, counseling and addiction treatment, hygiene items, knowledgeable staff to help them, as well as a place to cool off during a hot day, or warm up in the winter.  For more on how Reconciler uses donations click here. To donate by check please send your donation to this address: Church of the Reconciler 112 14th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203. To donate online click here.
 
There are many ways to be involved with the ministry of Reconciler – either as an individual or as a church group.  For more on how you and your church group can volunteer click here.
 
One way to volunteer is to help serve meals. Reconciler offers a hot breakfast served by area church groups Monday through Thursday at 9:30 a.m.  On Sundays, they host a Common Meal at noon which is also served by church groups. Click here for more information about serving meals at Reconciler.
 
“If you want to be a part of our messy, disorganized, and grace-filled place we call Church of the Reconciler United Methodist Church, you are always welcome.  We try to keep a current list of our specific needs on our website; things like coffee, or jackets, or help with repairs,” notes Rev. Lacey.

Current needs include

  • backpacks (new or used)
  • belts
  • safety razors
  • DVDs (pg-13 or below)
  • used books
  • clothing and shoes for large men (XXL+)
  • feminine hygiene products
  • large 50+ gallon trashbags
  • socks (new), underwear (new), gloves, skullcaps
  • small snacks for the women’s bible study group
  • coffee, creamer, and sugar
  • office paper 

Current Repair List 

  • leaks in roof
  • overhead lighting ballast replacements
  • air conditioning unit 
To drop off a donation, just call the church office ahead of time at 205-324-6402.  The staff asks that most items be dropped off Monday-Thursday between 9 a.m. and noon or on Sundays from 11 a.m. to noon.
 
Rev. Lacey adds that one of the best ways to be part of the ministry of Reconciler is to come and experience the ministry. “Just coming down and spending a hour in worship with us, or sitting down during breakfast and speaking with someone will do more good than you realize in the folks we serve.  We hope you will join us.”

On Wednesday, March 2, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, Central District Superintendent Rev. Bob Alford, Mountain Lakes District Superintendent Rev. Robin Scott and Central District Administrative Assistant Telisa Sullivan joined volunteers from Birmingham First UMC to serve breakfast at Church of the Reconciler.

Reconciler offers a hot breakfast served by area church groups Monday through Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

On Sundays, Reconciler hosts a Common Meal at noon which is also served by church groups.

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett discusses the ministry of Reconciler with Senior Pastor Rev. Matt Lacey.

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