Have faith: Coming in from the cold

Hospitality Homes give homeless a safe refuge from the frigid weather, day and night.


Every other week, Connie Berry will report on the news, events, and people at Martha’s Vineyard’s various places of worship.

The frigid weather over the weekend left me wondering just how Hospitality Homes was dealing with helping the homeless this winter. I knew there were overnight shelters available in Edgartown, and community suppers sponsored by faith communities every night of the week. But what about the daytime? A few phone calls later, I was able to catch up with the progress the clergy is making.

The Island Clergy Association has gained ground in its efforts to help the hungry and homeless, and they’ve definitely kept some folks warm this winter, according to the Reverend Chip Seadale of St. Andrew’s. He recently gave me an update on the new initiative.

“We’ve got four weekly coordinators who are doing the yeoman’s work — Dorie Godfrey from the Unitarian Church, Les Holcomb from Grace Church, Peter Vincent from Beacon of Hope, and Bill Vrooman from the Federated Church. They make sure each night is staffed, and they’re doing all the hard work,” the Rev. Seadale explained.

“More than a hundred people signed up to volunteer,” the Rev. Seadale said, “and there are currently openings for staffing the shelters in February and March.” As with all new programs, the Rev. Seadale said that he suspects all the bumps in the road will be ironed out eventually.

“There are a thousand things that could be done with this,” the Rev. Seadale said. “Volunteers could come forward to help with the clothing donations we’ve received, step forward to help facilitate the free shower program … even if it’s knitting hats, there are all kinds of things to be done.”

Grace Church in Vineyard Haven is ramping up its efforts too, offering tea and soup during the cold weather at 2 pm on Thursdays. Father Brian Murdoch, priest in charge at the church, said that Les and Betsy Holcomb are heading up the simple afternoon event.

“It works out well because after the tea and soup, folks can easily walk down the street to the community supper at St. Augustine’s Church,” Les Holcomb explained.

And as of this month, Grace Church has taken on a shelter night on Fridays. While temperatures dropped in February, Mr. Holcomb came up with a creative idea to help keep people warm before the overnight shelter at Grace Church opens at 7 pm. He calls it Cold Weather Writers, and guests can gather at 2 pm at the church for a writing group, and then stay for the soup supper, followed by overnight shelter.

Looks like Hospitality Homes is indeed keeping people warm during its first season. Anyone who wants to find out how to help can call the Rev. Seadale at 508-627-5330 or email him at fatherchip@standrewsmv.org.

Book discussion group

The Reverend Ellen Tatreau from First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven and Gay Head Community Church is hosting a book discussion group this Lent, using Jim Wallis’s “America’s Original Sin — Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.”

“Our denomination recommended that we engage our congregations in discussions about racism,” the Rev. Tatreau said. “This book just came out in January, and I read it and thought it would be a helpful way for our congregation to enter into conversation. My hope is that we as a church can look at where we are, and I also think it’s a good Lenten exercise, because it’s really about change. You have to have consciousness and understanding, then you can begin to look at changing.”

The discussion group is open to all Islanders, and will be held on Saturdays at 4 pm at the First Baptist parsonage, beginning Feb. 20. You can reach the Rev. Tatreau for more information by calling the First Baptist Church at 508-693-1539.

CROP Walk fundraiser

Woody Bowman from the West Tisbury Congregational Church is nearly ready with his final report on the funds raised at the CROP Walk, held last October. The walk was dedicated to its No. 1 supporter, the Rev. Alden Besse. Preliminary numbers indicate that it was the most successful walk to date, bringing in more than $25,000.

If you have news to share with Have Faith, send it to connie.berry12@gmail.com.