I was introduced to Aleita Hass-Holcombe and the Corvallis Daytime Drop-In Center almost seven years ago when I accepted the offer to serve as pastor at First Christian Church. We were the home of the Drop-In Center prior to my arriving.
The Drop-In Center left the basement of our church because of a longtime vision to partner with other organizations, which they thought was coming to fruition at the Second Street location. Their lease was up in July (it was an annual lease) and I believe Aleita and the Drop-In Center board felt like it was a natural time to exit and lead the way for Stone Soup and the men's cold weather shelter to operate out of the Second Street building. I was excited for the possibility as it meant more opportunities for the people being served. Other community members had other ideas and used their power and politics to place roadblocks in front of these services.
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Early on in my time here, I heard Aleita use the word solidarity. She talked with pride about the solidarity with First Christian Church leaders, with Stone Soup leaders, with the Homeless Employment Launching Project (HELP), and with the counseling center operating on the third floor. I am proud to be the pastor at "that" church, the church that opened their doors and hearts to the poor in our community. However, my understanding of solidarity has changed. For the first few years, I thought solidarity meant solidarity with the heads of these organizations, having a seat on the board, and being an advocate for the work they were doing.
My mind and heart has changed in what I believe Aleita was trying to teach me, and that is solidarity means solidarity with the poor. I am not called or obligated to be in solidarity with those who are serving, but to be in solidarity with those who we serve.
While people argue about this location or that location, funding or not funding, frivolous lawsuits, and not-in-my-backyard, those who are poor are suffering. They are suffering because of their poverty, and the shame that so many are heaping on them. Imagine if, instead of arguments for or against the placement of this organization or that organization, that we all agreed that we need to stand in solidarity with the poor. Then and only then will we begin to see change, real change.
I will stand with those organizations helping the poor in our community and there are many, but more importantly I will stand in solidarity with the poor and disenfranchised in our community. I will also stand against those who continue to put roadblocks in their way. I will stand against those who continue to harm the poor with an abuse of their economic, political, and social power.
Matt Gordon is the senior minister at First Christian Church in downtown Corvallis.