Call to Community (text)



Bless you for coming today! I welcome you on behalf of the Homeless Remembrance Project, and all the people— both homeless and housed—who worked to create this beautiful Tree of Life gathering place.

On Memorial Day people gather in many ways. We remember those who died in wars. Families take flowers to the graves of loved ones. Clans and clubs and neighbors gather for picnics, celebrating the life and relationships that go on, even though some are missing from the table. On Friday the Chief Seattle Club led a walk through town to this park, affirming the close connection we who are living have with those who have journeyed to the Spirit World.

Our gathering here at the Tree of Life also affirms that connection, with 45 people who were homeless, and who died outdoors or by violence since last Memorial Day. Surely there were others, whose names we do not know. Today we will lift up their names, and then we will celebrate life that goes on—as a community determined to reach that day when this kind of dying ends, and everyone is safely sheltered.


Let us pray: God of Life, of Love, of Justice—you walk with us, sharing our grief and anger each time someone dies for lack of the help and safety a compassionate city should provide. Today we remember these who were homeless in our community, who died outdoors or by violence. This circle of small stones marks a place for each one, reminding us of their place in our hearts, and their place in your eternal love. Hear us as we call out their names, responding, “WE REMEMBER.” (Names are read by five readers, and the response is given each time.)


Under the Tree of Life you see a circle of small stones—45 of them representing the people whose names we have just called out, and a few more whose names we do not know. As a way of honoring and remembering these sisters and brothers, I invite you to take a stone and put it in your pocket. Carry it for the days ahead. Each time you find it there, remember what we have done today. Give thanks for the lives of those we honored. And call to mind those who are vulnerable and facing hardship now, living without safe shelter. May these small stones be a guard against forgetting. May they be a sign of commitment and hope.


In Sunday’s paper we found these words from Drew Gilpin Faust, author of the book This Republic of Suffering. Speaking about the origins of Memorial Day after the American Civil War, she says:

“I like to think of Memorial Day as being created together by a nation rather than a single town or individual. You have to remember that probably half the Civil War dead were never identified because there were no dog tags or official next of kin notifications. It was a shared loss in the sense that so many dead belonged to everyone because they weren’t identified as belonging to any single one. These were also not the kinds of deaths that society believed were appropriate at the time.”

This speaks to our situation today. We will bring an end to homelessness only if we band together as one community with shared determination. This is proving to be a long struggle that belongs to us all, and for that we need ties that hold us together. These moments when we look back in memory and look ahead in determination. Leaves of Remembrance that honor the dead by name around the city. This Tree of Life that stands for hope. Most of all, our shared commitment to the work of compassion and justice that will restore our community so that everyone has a decent, safe place to live and thrive.

As we break bread together, sharing food and music, building relationships, let us celebrate the power and potential that is here when we come together. May it be so!


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