Four UCC congregations— Falcon Heights UCC, St. Anthony Park, UCC, St. Paul’s UCC, and UCC New Brighton—have joined forces for a unique project to re-engage youth in the life of the church.
“After being apart for so long in the pandemic, we wanted to find a meaningful way to bring our kids back,” says Rev. Amy Wick Moore, associate minister for education and faith formation at UCC New Brighton. “We decided on the topic of homelessness, and we basically designed a mission trip that is spread out over the span of a summer and into October.”
The four congregations began with discussions about the root causes of homelessness and different approaches to housing. They then moved to working with Settled, an organization focused on cultivating home with the homeless. “Settled brings people who have been chronically homeless into community with one another to show God’s love to them,” says Wick Moore. “The goal is to help lift people out of physical homelessness but also to have them find a place of care and concern.”
Settled facilitates building tiny homes in conjunction with Minnesota congregations. State legislation passed in May now allows churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship to create sacred communities of tiny homes on their property for persons experiencing chronic homelessness. While the tiny homes are not fully plumbed, the congregations provide bathrooms, showers, laundry, and kitchen. Youth from the four congregations toured a new tiny home site with six houses created by the Mosaic Christian Community in St. Paul.
“I’m so thankful that Eli’jah Carroll from St. Paul’s UCC helped us identify this type of project,” says Wick Moore. “The youth have really grown in their understanding and commitment.” Eighteen youth are meeting regularly to build a tiny home themselves. Importantly, the four congregations joined together to raise the $35,000 necessary to build the tiny home on a site created by Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood.
This past Sunday, the youth met to do a blessing of the home. They wrote prayers and messages of hope on the building’s frame. “We want the people who will be living here to literally be surrounded by hopes and prayers,” says Wick Moore. “The youth wrote things like ‘I hope that the people moving in here feel safe and loved,’ ‘I hope they have a sense of community.’ These amazing kids really understood what was happening. And Settled said they had never seen four churches working together on something like this so we’re pretty excited about this commitment.”