On Christmas Sunday, First United Methodist Church in downtown Erie had the distinct privilege and pleasure to host approximately 40 guests made up of a small portion of Erie's population experiencing homelessness. These individuals rely on Our Neighbor's Place Overflow shelter from November to April to escape the cold weather.
On the Friday before Christmas, Pastor Bob Trask began conversations with the leadership of that ministry and found out that on Christmas morning there was a gap from 7am until 10am that folks would have to fend for themselves as best they could in 25 below wind chill weather. After a series of phone calls to church members, a team was put together consisting of Bob and Cynthia Reid, Jim Foster, Jim Reim, and one member from Lawrence Park UMC, Ken Schaefer. Hot tea, coffee and chocolate were served along with Christmas cookies and toast with peanut butter and jelly. In addition, the team distributed scarves, winter hats and gloves to those who needed them (which was just about everyone).
For three hours on Christmas morning, with Christmas holiday music playing quietly in the background, they had the opportunity to get to know folks from the community in a new way. "The fellowship and ministry during that time was a wonderful addition to everyone's Christmas," said Trask, "and it has led to a deeper discussion of how we might continue to grow those relationships with one another. It truly was a merrier Christmas!"
Josh Jaeger from EUMA said it best in a text he sent to Pastor Bob later Christmas Day, "I don't think I'm overstating it to call this a Godsend. Thank you so much for your Grace and Hospitality!! I truly believe that you saved lives today!"