Church to raise awareness of homeless with 12-hour vigil, encampment Saturday

Church to raise awareness of homeless with 12-hour vigil, encampment Saturday

STONINGTON — For the second year in a row, a local church will hold a 12-hour Homeless Awareness Vigil to help raise awareness about the issue of homelessness beginning at noon Saturday.

The Rev. Ruth Hainsworth, pastor at the United Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, said she hopes local residents and others will join the group for “conversation around the bonfire with folks on the frontlines of homelessness in our area as we gather to witness to the need for real solutions to this ongoing problem.

“In order to fix it, we need to understand the problem of homelessness from the inside out,” Hainsworth said.

Participants will begin the project by building a simulated homeless encampment with structures created from cardboard and tents. They will also create signs and posters to show solidarity with the homeless and poor. Later in the day, participants will build a bonfire.

“Our presence outside is a visible witness that we are standing in solidarity with all who are homeless and all who are working to help them and solve the problem of homelessness,” said Hainsworth.

The encampment will also have donation bins for coats, blankets and personal care items for the homeless and for the WARM Center’s outreach efforts, she said. Cash donations for the WARM Center will also be accepted, she said.

“That solidarity piece is especially important this year,” Hainsworth added. “I think, when so many programs for the poorest in our midst feel like they are in jeopardy.”

The vigil will begin with a brown bag lunch, the unloading of supplies and equipment, and an opening prayer by Hainsworth.

At 2 p.m., a guest speaker from the WARM Center will give a talk, and church member Fred Tarasuk will lead the group in outdoor activities.

During the course of the day, participants will hear a variety of guest speakers on the reality of homelessness in the Westerly-Pawcatuck area, Hainsworth said.

The group will also spend time preparing a meal for the WARM Center’s Sunday supper.

“We are making lasagna with pasta donated from Maize ‘n Manna,” she said. Maize ‘n Manna, was a health food restaurant which closed late last year.   

“We will make the evening meal for clients at the WARM Center and then join in a meal ourselves,” said Hainsworth. “We’ll also participate in prayer times through word and action.”

Participants are being asked to donate one of the ingredients for the communal meal such as ground meat, pasta, pasta sauce, salad fixings, and ingredients for cookies.

At 8 p.m., the film “On the Edge: Family Homelessness in America, 2017” will be shown in the church’s sanctuary. At 10 p.m., a “Solidarity Circle” will be held by the fire and at 11 p.m. a decision will be made about what parts of the encampment to tear down and what parts to leave up for Sunday morning. A prayer vigil interlude will follow in the sanctuary, and at midnight closing prayers will be said before participants depart.

 The schedule is intended to allow participants to take part in all — or part — of the event. Young people who are not church members must be accompanied by an adult, Hainsworth said.

Outdoor activities will take place in the upper parking lot. Attendees are asked to park in the lower lot behind the building, or on the street. Indoor activities will take place in the sanctuary, Fellowship Hall and kitchen.

The church is located at the corner of Pequot Trail and Castle Hill Road in Pawcatuck.

For more information, contact Hainsworth at 860-599-1226 or check the church’s Facebook page.

— Nancy Burns-Fusaro


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