SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Christmas story of Jesus’ birth will have a deeper message this year because Willow Grove Presbyterian Church is highlighting the reality of homelessness in biblical times and now. On the front lawn of the church in Scotch Plains, neighbors will notice a nativity scene, showing Jesus born in a stable, reflecting the phrase in the Gospel of Luke, “There was no room for them in the inn.”
Next to this traditional scene is a tent, a grocery cart and an ice chest, depicting a place a modern homeless family in an urban area or a refugee family may find shelter. The scene in between says, “No room – then and now.” The church is highlighting the need to safe and affordable housing for people in Union County and around the world so all people can be home for Christmas.
On Sunday, Dec. 18 at the 10:00 a.m. worship service, a new short play will be presented entitled, “No Room – Then and Now” written by Willow Grove Church member Jon Finne. The play contrasts the story of Mary and Joseph who cannot find a place to stay in Bethlehem with the modern-day couple, Mary and Joe, who travel along Route 22 in New Jersey and cannot find a place to stay on Christmas night. Adults and children of all ages are invited to participate in this walk-on Christmas drama. Following the worship service, all are invited to enjoy refreshments.
Also on December 18, the community is invited to donate new or gently used blankets of any size or material. Donated blankets will be distributed to people in shelters and temporary housing provided by Family Promise, The Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, and HomeFirst. Blankets may be dropped off at the church office throughout December Monday – Friday or on Sunday, December 18.
The outdoor display, Christmas drama, and blanket collection project are part of Willow Grove Church’s ongoing involvement in ministries to reduce and eliminate homelessness. The church is a host congregation for Family Promise. Four weeks a year they provide shelter, meals and programs for families experiencing homelessness. Members and leaders of Willow Grove Church are also active in Refugee Assistance Partners, a local interfaith group committed to helping resettle Syrian refugee families in the area. The Willow Grove Church Mission Committee also disperses funds to organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, to provide affordable housing.
These special projects are part of Willow Grove Church’s participation in the annual Union County Homeless Sabbath sponsored by Monarch Housing. Local agencies, interfaith coalitions and congregations, including Community Access Unlimited, Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, Family Promise of Union County, HomeFirst, and the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council, are sponsoring the Homeless Sabbath December 16-18, 2016, on behalf of all people who are homeless in Union County. For more information go to http://monarchhousing.org/homeless-sabbath-2016.
Willow Grove Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) is a vibrant Christian community committed to engaging worship, spiritual growth for all ages, welcoming hospitality, and service to neighbors near and far. The church is located at 1961 Raritan Road, Scotch Plains, across from the Southside Firehouse and Soccer Field. For more information about church programs and ministries visit https://www.willowgrovechurch.org/ or our Facebook page.