Listening. That is how Our Common Ground was born. When we arrived in Everett, the city was in the middle of a conversation about how we as a city respond to an increasing number of folks on the streets - experiencing homelessness, addiction, or mental (un)health. Even though we were a small church, we knew we needed to be in these conversations. We also knew we needed to listen to what was already happening. (New churches are notorious for swooping in with “solutions” without asking if those solutions will help. We didn’t want to do this).
So we listened - with our ears and with our lives - and we heard volumes. One clear learning from our listening is that Everett needs safe, dry places to spend time during the day. The few places meeting this need, like the Everett Public Library, are quite full on rainy days (and if you have ever lived in the Puget Sound... you know there are a lot of rainy days!). Everett needs more safe, accessible places to be during some of the day that are free and offer a few things to help folks that might need them. In their collective and lengthy listening and conversation, this was a sentiment the recent Streets Initiative agreed on - nearly unanimously.
As a church, our primary job is not offering services. Our job is offering community. As many have said: The main reason people end up on the street is not a lack of money. It is a lack of community. You end up on the street when all those connections are gone. And for anyone who has struggled with addiction or mental (un)health, or walked with someone who has, healing from these things is darn near impossible without the support of friends, family, and community.
Though our little church had limited resources, we began to explore if it might be a place in Everett that could be safe, dry, and community could happen. And from this exploration, Our Common Ground was birthed - and really is still being birthed!
Our mission is to be a community of hospitality and collaboration that is open to all, as we journey together with our neighbors experiencing poverty, addiction, and mental illness. A primary venue toward this vision is our Hopsitality Space, which will be open in the fellowship hall at Everett UCC Monday-Thursday, 8am-Noon (opened mid-November 2015!). We see this as a beginning: a place we can continue listening to our neighbors and collaborating towards community, health, and friendship.
And we also can’t do this alone. From partners to volunteers, it will take a community to make this happen. You can find out more on our website.
-Rebecca and Luke Sumner
(Our Common Ground is a ministry of Our Common Table, a church-in-formation in Everett, WA.)