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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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More than just a place to sleep

And greater things are still to be done in this city … (Chris Tomlin, singer)

The words of the Christian pop song “God of This City” echoed in the dimly lit sanctuary as a small group of youth and adults gathered for worship. In this suburban church, most of the worshipers knew they would return to the streets the next morning to scrap for survival.  

The respite was sweet. For a night the homeless could release their worries at Advent Lutheran Church, Charlotte, N.C. Because of a worship service led by teenagers, they did more than sleep in God’s house. 

The teenagers’ involvement started in September 2012 when the Democratic National Convention was held in Charlotte. The local “Room in the Inn” program finds churches and other sites willing to feed and house the homeless during the coldest months of the year (December-March). Realizing the increased hotel rates for the convention would prohibit some of the city’s homeless from staying in their usual weekly hotels, “Room in the Inn” asked for additional accommodations.

In addition to hosting the homeless on Monday nights for more than 10 years, Advent selected the two Friday nights of the 10-day convention, and the youth stepped forward to host and lead worship.

Back to worship
A teenager welcomed worshipers. Led by two others on their guitars, they sang two songs. A girl read Scripture, and the whole group — a mix of ages, races and socioeconomic status — circled the altar to join hands in prayer, including requests from guests who chose not to join the service but wanted their prayers lifted up. Teens culled prayer requests from guests while mingling during dinner. 


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