On November 1st of each year we begin a new season of Room In The Inn. More than 180 congregations participate, representing Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, the churches of Christ, Episcopal, Catholic, Adventist, Lutheran, evangelical, Jewish, Unitarian, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalist, Nazarene, African-Methodist Episcopal, and non-denominational communities. All come together to provide the grace of hospitality in their own facility, under the common theme of God’s unconditional love for all people, especially the poor and dispossessed.
Room In The Inn is a simple concept addressing a complex problem. It starts with building relationships of trust and respect in an atmosphere of non-violence. It believes in the power of love offered in one-to-one encounters with one another.
Because so many new people have arrived in the Nashville area since Room In The Inn’s inception in 1986, it may be helpful to discuss what Room In The Inn is not and what it is. Then, perhaps, more new volunteers and congregations will want to be involved.
What it is not
Room In The Inn is not an attempt to resolve all of the issues of the homeless. The problems are too deep and too personal.
Room In The Inn is not a program through which a congregation takes one or more homeless people “underwing,” providing them with economic assistance, job training, and personal spiritual direction. These gifts can be offered in time, as relationships develop.
Room In The Inn is not about establishing another large shelter downtown where hundreds of people are cared for nightly.
And it is not about boards of directors and major fundraising campaigns for capital projects.
What is it?
Room In The Inn is a way for more people in every sector to understand the problems of the homeless by becoming directly involved with people who are homeless.
Room In The Inn is a means through which congregations of every faith open their facilities to welcome twelve to fifteen homeless people as guests on cold winter nights.
Room In The Inn is about changing people, guests and hosts alike. It creates an environment with the opportunity for the guests to learn that there are people who care…and for the hosts to come to understand that the faceless figure on the street corner is more than a statistic…and that there are solutions.
Room In The Inn is about serving without prejudice or pride. It is about accepting everyone.
Room In The Inn is about people of religion putting the tenets of their faith into practice.
Room In The Inn is not about giving; it is about receiving. It is about everyone, both guests and hosts, receiving a blessing—an encounter with God in the midst of suffering, hardship, pain and grief.
Room In The Inn is an opportunity, not an answer. It is an experience, not a solution. In short, Room In The Inn is an opportunity to experience the presence of God in a different way.
Finally, Room In The Inn gets its name from a story in the Bible about a family coming to a small town called Bethlehem and not finding any room in the inn. We cannot go back in history 2000 years and change that story. But what we can do in Nashville each evening we are open is to change that story’s ending by providing room in the inn.
As 200 plus people come every night for shelter, we often change that story’s ending. The colder it gets, the more we fail. Despite over 30,000 nights of shelter offered last winter, there were many nights when we turned away between 80-100. Despite 180 congregations participating—a priceless gift to our community—there are many congregations that are not.
Please consider helping out in your congregation or, better still, trying to recruit other congregations to be involved. It will change your life and many others.
Room In The Inn remains the heart and soul of the programs offered at our downtown Campus through the kindness offered by so many thousands of volunteers and so many different communities of faith. Without them we would be a social service agency, not a ministry of love. For that we are always grateful.
If your congregation is interested in participating in the Room In The Inn winter shelter program, or if you want to know more, contact us!