By Rev. Schaunel Steinnage
When I graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1996, I had a vision of my sense of call, which I felt was to go out and meet people who live on the street and talk to them. Years later, in the 2000s, when I was working for 11 years as the Hunger Action Enabler for the Presbytery of Philadelphia, a bunch of conversations were occurring—among Philadelphia City leadership, homelessness service organizations, and faith leaders—about what to do about the “problem” of having people living on the streets of Center City, Philadelphia, and I was often a part of these conversations. In the midst of some of the conversations, in 2007, Rev. Violet Little, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pastor, founded a drop-in center in a Center City Lutheran church building, a place where people could come in for a cup of tea, a bit of normalcy.
People who came to the drop-in center asked if Bible Study would ever be offered, and a faith community began to take shape. The Welcome Church grew out of the drop-in center, eventually formally recognized, in 2012, as a congregation-in-development serving people who are in poverty, in the ELCA. Following and a part of the work along the way, I was recruiting Presbyterian congregations to support the Welcome Church, while I was the Hunger Action Enabler. Blessed, I became the paid Associate Pastor of the Welcome Church, serving the Welcome Church with Rev. Little, in 2013.