a decision has been made…

The decision has been made that we are operating as a charity dining hall, and therefore are breaking zoning ordinance. So, to feed the hungry and poor on church property, according to this ruling, is not an allowed function of the church.

But the process is not over. We can appeal to the Board of Adjustment, and will be able to continue our ministry during this time.

However, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered. Questions like, How hungry? What about our potlucks? What about our Christmas dinner or Easter Sunrise breakfast? When I eat that, I am pretty hungry…is that allowed? What about the coffee and donuts we serve on Sunday mornings? Can we eat that if we are hungry? And then there is the other question, “How poor?” How poor do we have to be to be considered a “charity?” Federal-poverty-guidelines-poor? Not-able-to-make-the-house-payment-poor? Or, how about not-able-to-pay-off-the-credit-card-poor?

Or, are we just discriminating against people who are poor and who don’t have homes, because we don’t like what we feel when we see them? The real issue, is not that there are hungry people out there, or that we serve food in church, the real issue is that we are afraid. Afraid to reach out a helping hand; afraid to see what the economy could do to us; afraid to face our worst fears…

We can minister to the poor…that’s a given. We can hold a worship service for them out on the front lawn. We just can’t feed them. We can’t fill their bellies with warm food. …We might as well just go to the street corners and start handing out money, in hopes they will make their way to some food, because you are not allowed to do it at church!

And since, when we give food to the hungry and poor, that somehow redefines us as a “charity dining hall”…who among us can eat at church? Can we put a donut or a sip of coffee in our mouths when we can’t do the same for the poor? In good conscience, can we eat anything on church property if we can only give food to the well-off and wealthy?

And I haven’t even asked the other questions about our freedom of religion…our country’s decision to let religious folk be free to act out our faith…

Too many questions bog down my heart….

Oh, but one more question that was pointed out to me a few weeks ago…I wonder if Jesus had a permit to feed the 5000, or to break bread at the Upper Room, or to turn the water into wine at the wedding in Cana?

My, my, my! What have we come to? Where’s the love? Will you pray with me?

Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank

Pastor

CrossRoads United Methodist Church

22 comments

  1. I saw the article in today’s AZfamily.com site for the first time. All I can do is shake my head. Are you now supposed to ask for ID, question whether your visitor is a resident or homeless… Sorry, we’ll feed the residents but we can’t feed the homeless- prove your residency first! Ridiculous! While I am a member of CCV, there has not been a church I haven’t gone to that hasn’t had a potluck or a Sunday brunch, and not one has ever been told we were doing it illegally. Here’s today’s article with some interesting Statutes regarding your rights as a church. I don’t think the Judge has read these yet… http://www.azfamily.com/news/local/Judge-says-Phoenix-church-cannot-feed-homeless-69650502.html

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  2. One last thought: Does this mean that we can no longer partake of communion… the bread & wine? Technically, wouldn’t that be “feeding” people as well? It’s a stretch, but I think you’ll understand my point.

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  3. First, I am saddened to hear about this, and to be frank, a little outraged. I intend to blog about this on my blog http://www.dereks.ws and hopefully bring awareness and support to your cause.

    Second, THANK YOU.. for thinking of the homeless in the first place, for feeding those who are hungry, and last but not least for NOT GIVING UP. From all the way in North Caroline you have my hope, love, and best wishes.

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  4. Stay the course! We run a homeless shelter out of gym Fridays in the summer and we are in a residential area in Illinois. My prayers are with you! If you can serve communion … you can serve pancakes. Would love to talk further!

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  5. I am a UMC pastor who read about this from Common Dreams website. Crossroads UMC makes me proud! I am also saddened by this clear classism–that if people from one economic class enter a neighbnorhood of a different economic class, that somehow this is illegal. The zoning argument is a grasping for a legal means to discriminate…and discrimination is, at the root, about fear.

    I wonder if you could consecrate pancakes and serve pancake communion?

    I also wonder how the pressw would cover a story of a pastor and parishioners being handcuffed and taken away for feeding hungry people pancakes!

    Blessings on your ministry, if I lived in the region I’d join your church.

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  6. So you can feed people as long as they don’t need it.

    Or you can bring people to your church who need food as long as you don’t feed them.

    What if you feed them on the bus on the way there, and then just have a foodless Saturday service together at your church?

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  7. Dottie, thank you for continuing to feed those less fortunate in our communities. If you need an extra hand to help cook or feed, count me in!

    Laura

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  8. You handled yourself so well on CNN. I am not a member of your congregation, but am a Methodist. What you and your congregation are doing is the essence of Methodism. It is the essence of Christ. I will pray the church and the community can come to a mutual, equitable, and fear free resolution.

    Thank you for helping me regain faith,
    Scott (Seattle, WA)

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  9. I am thankful for your and your congregation’s courage for prophetic ministry. St. Paul’s Church in Newport News VA also offers community support ministry for people who are hungry, sick, unemployed, without a good place to live. I agree that fear drives most negative responses to ministry that dares to cross class lines. It is painful to see the suffering; however, only when the suffering becomes personalized (i.e., the suffering one is not nameless or simply a category) can the Church truly “love mercy and do justice.” We will hold you in our prayers and hearts during worship tomorrow.

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  10. Yes!My entire household will pray with you Rev. Escobedo-Frank.

    I Facebooked this story as my status yesterday and found like souls joining in prayer for this ministry. Thanks to my cuz who found your church website for us.

    God go with you and your congregation and so many of our brothers and sisters in need. Soldarity in the struggle to discern your path.

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  11. I pray that somehow the neighbors see the positives of feeding the poor and reaching out to those less fortunate…May they let go of their fear. (by the way, we need to boycott the TV show ‘Bum Fights’ and other nasty portrayals of individuals, human beings who are experiencing homelessness!)

    What saddens me is that your church doing something so so necessary and everyday practical – even shuttling folks there – you should be held up as a model!!

    Our prayers are with you all. May justice prevail.

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  12. Dear Dottie,

    We prayed together at the School for Congregational Development in the section which you led with it Joe Daniels, when significant heat was beginning to get turned up last July! You continue in my prayers, having hit the pages of Newscope, and I will continue to pray that those for whom Jesus came will receive grace to deal with the Herods of Phoenix. I am sure that the Town Council thinks that offering Christ to the poor is a strange way to save the world… but you are convicted otherwise!!!
    Grateful for your witness… Rev. Ed Carll Westfield NJ

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  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iftar Many Muslims believe that feeding someone iftar as a form of charity is very rewarding.
    http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1A1-D904J0OG3.html Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope to visit an American synagogue Friday, bringing greetings for the Passover holiday and accepting gifts of matzo and a seder plate.
    http://www.roamingtales.com/2009/11/10/thai-food-at-the-buddhist-temple-in-berkeley/
    Thai food at the Buddhist Temple in Berkeley on Sunday

    Where are the temples, mosques and synagogues in Arizona zoned?

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  14. Guidance counseling and mentoring for teenagers: many teenagers caught in the trap of poverty are intelligent, yet lack a caring friend to support them in times of indecision. It is amazing what one intelligent person can do for another intelligent young person if the communication is there. My family has its stories of living in poverty, but my sister became a lawyer, my brother a minister at an Indian Reservation, and I, well, two out of three isn’t bad.
    Food boxes for families would be better than a one-day meal. Many of the food banks now have restricted collection times and are far for single-parent families.

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  15. I imagine it is district court who ruled no feeding of the poor. Take it to the court of Appeals and YOU Will win.
    The FA case Food Not Bomb was decided in the feeders favor contact me for more info.
    Can you ask those being feed to use their computers to look up the word poverty on DEc 10 at Google and Yahoo, search web spot. We want to make this number 1 search. Need Prayers for this event

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  16. Rev. Dottie,

    We saw your story in Newscope and want to pass along our prayers for your continued ministry. Yes, people would try to stop Jesus for feeding the 5000 and turning water into wine. Our church is an intercity church in downtown Knoxville and we serve a weekly Soup Kitchen meal to around 200 persons. Recently we have felt the pressure from the city through agencies to end homeless that we need to be regulated in when and how we feed. We anticipate that homeless identification cards will be required before we should serve anyone and that if they have already received a meal elsewhere, we should turn them away. We too will resist and hope that it doesn’t lead to further action.

    Blessings,
    Rev. Darryll Rasnake
    Associate Pastor for Outreach

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