Our Response to the Homeless Shelter
Planned for Douglaston
On Thursday, February 18, we sent a letter to Community Board 11 in support of the City’s plan to convert the Pride of Judea building on Northern Boulevard into a 72-bed homeless shelter for senior women. We believe that supporting this plan and welcoming these new neighbors is part of Zion’s mission as “God’s light shining on a hill in the Queens community since 1830,” striving to be “Christ’s hands and heart in the world.”
Scripture commands us to take care of the stranger and the refugee: this command appears not once or twice, but dozens of times. In fact, one of the earliest references to the “Golden Rule” is applied specifically to those who have come to live among the people of Israel. “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:34). That last part is important. For Christians as for our Jewish siblings, our identity is rooted in the story of liberation from enslavement and oppression to flourish in a new place. When we live into that story, we celebrate the liberation of others, and make them welcome. When we live into that story, we want to give them what our own ancestors needed to flourish, and we refuse to withhold anything that we would need if we were in their shoes today.
We also look to the life and teachings of Jesus for guidance. Jesus spent most of his time among the poor and marginalized. In part this was because Jesus was one of them: Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was born in transitional housing, and that his family tree includes women like Ruth and Rahab—women who had complicated stories, but who were blessed by God, and blessed the communities where they came to live. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that immediately after his birth, Jesus’ family fled as refugees from a manipulative and abusive man. Matthew also tells us that as an adult man, anointed as God’s own Son, Jesus declared his infinite solidarity with the stranger in need. His ministry of hope and healing focused on the people that had been kicked to the curb by their society. As followers of Jesus, we are called to respond to “the least of these” as if we were responding to Christ himself (Matthew 25:35-40).
Lastly, we remember the promise we made at our baptism to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Every one of the women who we will welcome to the new shelter is beloved of God, and made in God’s image. This means that we cannot accept the insinuation that they will be a burden or blight upon our community. We believe that every human being is a blessing—and we are blessed to walk with them as they seek to follow the paths that God is opening for them through safer and more supportive housing.
We are clear-eyed about the challenges that the shelter will present to the Douglaston-Little Neck community. And we agree with those neighbors who have described the many ways in which the City’s plan is not ideal. Yet we refuse to make the perfect into the enemy of the good—the good that God is calling us to do in welcoming our new neighbors, with all their needs and their gifts. We are excited to discover what God is doing in and through the lives of these women, and how God is calling us to be transformed through solidarity with them.
Signed by the Clergy, Wardens, and Vestry on February 16, 2021
The Rev. Lindsay Lunnum, Rector
The Rev. Carl Adair, Deacon
Ms. Joanne Martell, Warden
Ms. Marguerite LeBron, Warden
The Vestry of Zion Episcopal Church:
Ms. Sandra Bechan, Ms. Amy Griffin, Mr. John Kolnsberg, Ms. Kay MacDermott, Mr. Daniel Ott, Ms. Jee Ryu Savoie, Ms. Alexis Soterakis, Mr. Rodney Tria, Mr. William Wolff, III, Ms. Kathy Steensen (Treasurer)