Katrina Foster, pastor of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Amagansett, N.Y., has been doing a lot of house blessings these days.
She simply walks across the church parking lot to the new low-income senior housing community, named for the church, and blesses the apartments of any of the 40 families who request it.
St. Michael’s Senior Housing, which sits on land where the parsonage once stood, is being called a gift from God for the church and residents. It has revitalized the congregation and given hope to low-income seniors who struggled to pay rent or were homeless.
The $12 million project was more than 13 years in the making and began when the congregation wanted to do something for the community. St. Michael initially had sold five of its six acres to be developed, but red tape and zoning difficulties delayed the project.
Then Foster took a call three years ago to St. Michael in the Hamptons, a series of upscale beach towns 90 miles from New York City — and the building began.
Foster encouraged church members and residents to pressure zoning boards to approve plans and lobby legislators for state funding.
“She’s fearless,” said church member Gerry Mooney, who has managed affordable housing projects in town and knew how to make St. Michael’s Senior Housing happen. “The church just picked up on her energy.”
Whether it was fearlessness or tenacity, Foster said seeing the project to completion was what St. Michael’s was supposed to do. “We’re called to reach out and help our neighbors,” she said.
Fact is, not everyone who lives in the Hamptons is wealthy. Many seniors have called Long Island home all their lives, she said, and affordable housing is scarce there, especially in the mansion-lined communities on the East End. At the same time, St. Michael saw membership dwindling and faced an uncertain future.
Mooney gave advice about getting a Housing and Urban Development grant and tax credits from an investment company. The project even had intervention from N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whose office called HUD on behalf of the church. Ground was broken in January 2012, and the buildings were dedicated in May 2013.
“Only the insane would do something like this,” said Foster with a smile. “[But] I have enough faith to know that when you put something out there, and it’s God’s will, then God finds a way.”
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© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers