Plymouth and Neighbor 2 Neighbor 17th Annual
Homelessness Prevention Vigil and Youth Sleep Out
Saturday, December 4-5, 2021
Vigil at 5 pm North Parking Lot Patio of Plymouth UCC
We are live and in person this year for the 17th annual Homelessness Prevention Vigil and Youth Sleep Out! Last year we persevered through extreme social distancing in Plymouth’s north parking lot with a video vigil shown to us on a blow-up screen in the back of two pick-ups and the sound coming to our cars through FM radio. And all our teen programming was through Zoom and each teen slept out in their own backyard.
This year we can all gather for the vigil at the steps of the patio in the north parking lot as we have traditionally done with barrel fires, live music and inspirational speakers. Sister Mary Alice Murphy, one of the founders of the Homelessness Prevention Program, will inspire us with her passion for serving the poor and dis-enfranchised. New to our vigil speaker line-up will be Fort Collins mayor, Jenny Arndt who has been on the front lines of social justice issues for many years in Colorado state government. Our high school teens and their adult sponsors will have a soup supper and breakfast (provided by the Outreach and Mission Board) outside on the Plymouth lawn. Their educational activities will be socially distance and masked in our fellowship hall. They will sleep out in their traditional cardboard boxes on the front lawn in solidarity with homeless people who only have cardboard box shelters to sleep in year around.
Perhaps you are new to Plymouth and to this Plymouth staple of holiday traditions…WHAT EXACTLY IS THE HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION VIGIL AND SLEEPOUT? It is an annual event in which high school youth sleep outdoors in cardboard boxes to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in our community and gain empathy for the incredible challenges that homeless individuals face on a daily basis. As part of this event, youth also participate in an educational session focused on the complex nature of homelessness and its impact on both individuals and communities. To engage the wider community in this event, there is also a vigil in which people of all ages are invited to listen to a variety of speakers discuss various facets of the issue of poverty in Northern Colorado. Most importantly, the Sleepout is a fundraiser for Neighbor to Neighbor’s Homeless Prevention Program, which provides rental assistance to help keep individuals and families in their homes. The need for Neighbor to Neighbor’s services is up 2000% in 2020, which means the money raised from this event is much-needed and will be put to good use in our community!
In the early 2000s Plymouth’s Senior Minister, the Rev. Hal Chorpenning began meeting Sister Mary Alice Murphy and others from St. Joseph and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic parishes to brainstorm how homelessness can be prevented rather than “cured.” They developed a non-profit, the Homelessness Prevention Initiative, for providing rental assistance to keep families out of homelessness. HPI is now the Homelessness Prevention Program of Neighbor 2 Neighbor. N2N estimates that, once a family becomes homeless, the per household costs of a temporary shelter housing, emergency room visits, agency services, food baskets, and the new housing total $5,000 or more per family. A cost of $300 rental assistance per family looks pretty good compared to $5,000!
For over 12+ years, many Plymouth volunteers staffed the application and interview processes for families to receive assistance. At the recommendation of a Plymouth member who had recently transferred from a UCC church in Minnesota, the idea for the youth sleepout to raise funds took shape. This is a village – Plymouth and Larimer county social justice non-profits and other front range faith communities – helping another village – our Larimer county neighbors who need help staying in their homes. You can find more information on the Plymouth/Neighbor 2 Neighbor Homelessness Prevention Program Sleep Out and Vigil on the Plymouth website.
Join us this Saturday, December 4, 2021 at 5 pm for the 17th Annual Sleep Out Vigil!
See you Saturday at 5 pm at the Vigil as we sing, pray and are inspired by those on the front lines of eradicating homelessness in Larimer County!
With you on the journey,
Brooklyn is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. She has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.
This year we are sending each household a printed copy of the SALT Project’s Advent devotional, Advent Unbound. It is a unique and joyful way to enter this season of preparation for welcoming the Christ as a child once again into our hearts. Look for your copy in the mail! (A digital copy was emailed to members mid-month.)
The Adult Forum Team will be using this material each Sunday morning of Advent. Join them in the Forum Room at 10:00 am or Zoom in to their presentation. (The Zoom link will be in the Saturday email.) Sara and Peter Mullarkey are facilitating a Zoom discussion of the devotional each Thursday evening in Advent (2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd) 6:30-8 p.m. Sign up on the Advent page.
Just to entice you…here is an excerpt from the intro to Advent Unbound:
God becoming incarnate in a human being is too astounding, too dazzling, too impossible an event to merely celebrate on a single day. We need to prepare beforehand, and extend the jubilation when it arrives (“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love said to me...”). And so we add Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, a preparatory candlelight vigil. But even that isn’t enough – and so we design a whole season of anticipation, four weeks of waiting and preparing, all so we’ll be ready to welcome and receive Jesus when he comes.
The word “Advent” means coming or arrival. The Christian year begins not with the trumpets of Easter, or the wonder of Christmas Eve, or the winds of Pentecost – but on the contrary, in Advent, we begin in the shadows of despair, conflict, sorrow, and hate. For it’s here that the God of grace will arrive. And so it’s here that God’s church is called to light candles of heartfelt hope, peace, joy, and love.
Poetry can help, as can “unbinding” poetry from dusty bookshelves or intimidating expertise. The Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama’s beloved podcast, “Poetry Unbound,” is an inspiring case in point: evocative, accessible poems illuminated with sensitivity and insight by Ó Tuama’s commentary. In this Advent devotional, we let scripture and “Poetry Unbound” be our guides, together pointing us toward weekly practices that can help deepen and enrich our experience of the season – a perfect way to prepare for the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christmas day.
So grab a Bible and your favorite way of listening to the “Poetry Unbound” podcast (the poems and episode transcripts can also be read online at onbeing.org/series/poetry-unbound/). Week by week, poem by poem, we’ll wait and prepare and listen and sing, unbinding the season – and with God’s help, unbinding our hearts – along the way.
Hope you will make the journey through Advent with our Plymouth community and this devotional offering. Remember the two discussion opportunities above! And you can discuss what shimmers for you, challenges you, comforts you with friends and family at dinner. Play a poem for your kids!
Happy Thanksgiving and join us Sunday for Advent!
Grace and peace to you all.
This is J.T. Smiedendorf, your new Bridge Associate Minister. I’m here to be one of your pastors until the Associate Minister Search Team finds their candidate, the church votes to confirm that candidate, and that candidate arrives at Plymouth Church to begin their ministry sometime next year (maybe summer or fall). Being a Bridge Minister means I am not a candidate for this position.
I am here to be with you on the Spirit journey, to be a part of your ministry, your staff, and your clergy. Whether it be preaching, teaching, leading worship, calling you or meeting with you, or advising and supporting ministry teams, I’m here to help. In many years of ministry, I’ve been a chaplain, Associate, Senior, Co-Pastor, and Interim Minister. At this point, Spirit has called me into interim ministry, yet another of Spirit’s surprises that are right for me. I hope that my ministry and life experience will be of service to you all. I’ve already met a good number of you and some of you have seen me online or even spoke with me on the phone. I’ve enjoyed it and I look forward to getting to know you more.
As for me, I live outside of Boulder in the foothills with Allison, my wife, and our cat, Isabella. I grew up in southwest Michigan in a small town as the youngest of three sons. I grew up going to and active in a United Methodist church before leaving for the UCC as an adult in 1995 (after I attended seminary). Academia and book learning have been helpful, but most helpful has been my life learning through recovery from divorce, sitting in men’s circles, and being in deep ritual and retreat settings. The heart of the Gospel to me is the Divine Force that moves to liberate, to heal, and to make people and cultures whole so that the interdependent web of Life might flourish (justice, peace, and the integrity of Creation).
I’m glad to be with you.
Let’s see what Spirit can do in and through us all.
The Rev. JT Smiedendorf has been a UCC minister since 2001, serving churches in Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington. He has a particular passion for reclaiming the earthy, embodied, and experiential aspect of Christian spiritual practice. He and his wife Allison are co-founders of The Sanctuary for Sacred Union, an inter-spiritual initiative, and he is currently earning a postgraduate Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research. Read more about JT HERE.
I am sure a lot of us are living with pandemic fatigue. That fatigue is making it harder and harder to show up for things. We are all exhausted. I know our young people are especially feeling this. I spoke with a student last week about how COVID interrupted her freshman year – she’s a junior now.
Together, we reflected on how across the board, groups are feeling smaller. Like I said, it’s harder now to show up for things. But I want to take a second to brag on the students who are showing up.
These are students who are still excited about building community and serious about respecting each other. These are students who are motivated to see this year’s Sleepout succeed. These are students who will show up for the Alternative Giving Fair because they care about the mutually supportive relationship between our youth program and Equal Exchange. These are students who ask good questions and are willing to explore together for good answers. Our group may be small, but it is mighty.
Every student that I have had the chance to get know – from the little ones in Sunday School all the way up to our seniors in high school – has impressed me and blessed me. Spending time with them is the life-giving antidote that I need for my pandemic fatigue.
What’s life-giving for you? How are you feeding your soul right now? If you would like to be inspired by these students, come see them at the Alternative Giving Fair or support them during Sleepout. In any case, I hope you have a life-giving practice that you’re committing to, especially as we enter into the busyness of the holidays.
P.S. Learn more about the Alternative Giving Fair or this year’s Sleepout.
Brooklyn is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. Brooklyn has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.
I just got off the phone with one of our 94-year-old members who is an inpatient at PVH with a breakthrough case of COVID. I cannot imagine how hard it is for him to face the scourge of this virus at his age, and as we spoke, we agreed that neither of us has ever seen anything like it. How does this happen to someone who is vaccinated and has taken care to avoid the virus?
At lunchtime, I went to the grocery store, and I was shocked to see other customers not wearing masks, despite a public health order more than a week ago mandating mask use. As someone whose immune system is compromised by cancer treatment, I find this personally concerning and socially irresponsible. It is okay with me if an individual wants to play Russian roulette with their own health, but please don’t assume that it is alright to do so with mine or with anyone else’s. If we can cooperate by not smoking in the presence of others because of the danger of secondhand smoke (also a government mandate), why can’t some folks agree to slip on a simple mask without getting belligerent?
It isn’t easy living through these days of the pandemic. I’m sure that we all feel like a good rant every now and again. I think of Albert Finney in the 1976 film, Network, encouraging people to stick their heads out the window and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” And there are moments when perhaps you feel as if you’ve come to the end of your rope and want to shout at someone…or at least holler out the window. (Theological note: It’s probably a lot safer to yell at God than someone whose feelings are apt to be hurt. God can take it!) Lighting a tiki torch and becoming a white supremacist is not a faithful response to pandemic. Yelling at public health officials or school board members is not a faithful response. Why must humans find a scapegoat and play the blame game?
Most of us are frustrated, exhausted, and feeling traumatized to some degree. Instead of blaming and ranting excessively or becoming passive aggressive, we need to talk to people who understand us, even if they are amid the same crisis. We can explore with a friend, a spouse, or a trusted companion such questions as: What is lifegiving for me right now? What is depleting or deadening? What have I done to live into the idea that there is no us and them…there is only us? What help do I need from my friends? (Thanks to Gareth Higgins for this model!) Social contact — even with social distance — helps diminish our isolation, our sense of being alone, and our frustration.
During the Middle Ages and in Early Modern Europe, Christians dealt with the plague on numerous occasions (without the benefit of masks, vaccines, or knowledge that a virus exists). And lest we think them primitive or unenlightened, we can look to some of them for examples of faithful response. While others fled Wittenberg when the bubonic plague arrived in 1527, Martin Luther stayed behind to support the sick and dying. That is a more constructive response than scapegoating or discharging misdirected anger at someone. Who can you help? Who needs you to hold the Christlight for them? As St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness joy.” What can you do to alleviate someone’s stress, suffering, or isolation today? The path to healing for ourselves lies in how we can use our lives in the service of each other.
Blessings to you helpers!
P.S. I listened in on the Larimer County Health Board last week, and it was terrible listening to how our public health director, his staff, and our public health board were verbally abused during the public comment. It's been a long pandemic, especially for these folks. I ask that you take two minutes to send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know that you support their efforts to keep us safe. Thank you!
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal here.