DURHAM - THE HERALD SUN BY BLAKE STRAYHORN HABITAT FOR HUMANITY OF DURHAM
So…a group of Muslims, Jews, and Christians plus a few that call themselves unaffiliated gathered at Durham Habitat's Hospitality House build this past Sunday, and a remarkable thing happened:
We talked. We broke bread together. And we painted a Habitat home.
In the process, we learned from each other. We acknowledged we have differences. In fact, we celebrated our differences.
Many groups left a T-shirt or banner on the Hospitality House “Wall of Unity.” Indeed, even Duke and Carolina fans come together over the Habitat hammer!
And then we focused on all that we have in common.
We discussed deep concerns about current events, the fear that mass shootings bring. We spoke of the stereotypes and labels that divide us, and talked about what we can do to break down those barriers.
As we shared a meal, we talked about the commonalities between our faiths. Love your neighbor. A deep sense that service to others is vitally important to being a good Muslim, Jew, Christian. To being a good person.
We realized we share a strong commitment to turning faith into action. And then, together, we painted a Habitat house in partnership with two future Habitat home buyers. It was a very good day.
A mentor of mine once told me that ideas divide and projects unite. So true! A day at a Habitat job site affirms my conviction that when we move beyond the rhetoric of the ideas, the labels, the stereotypes that divide our community, when we come together to build - and sell - affordable homes in Durham in partnership with hard-working, low-income families, we unite in building community.
People come together around the hammer at Habitat. As we work to eradicate poverty housing in Durham, Habitat is, and aspires to be even more, radically inclusive. It’s the right thing to do, and we know we need all the help we can get as we serve more of our Durham neighbors.
One of Durham Habitat’s founders, Worth Lutz, a man of few words follows St. Francis’ advice to “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.”
Durham Habitat preaches the gospel through action by building and selling around 20 houses per year. The Hospitality House honors another of Durham Habitat’s founders, Bishop Johnson. Bishop Johnson articulated his vision for a radically inclusive Hospitable Diocese when he was elected Bishop in 1994.
Bishop Johnson died last year, and the Episcopal Diocese is sponsoring a Durham Habitat home in his memory, a home we’re calling the Hospitality House. Bishop Johnson’s vision inspires the Habitat Hospitality House to be one that encourages us:
- To embrace radical inclusivity, hospitality, as the surest sign of Christlikeness.
- To risk erring on the side of compassion and hospitality, rather than on the side of condemnation and exclusion.
- To make all feel truly welcomed, not just invited and tolerated, but actively recruited and embraced. There are no outcasts, no strangers.
- To invite and encourage all Durham neighbors - regardless of race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, physical or mental ability, veteran status, military obligations, and marital status - to apply for Habitat homeownership, and to partner with us as we build homes, hope and community in Durham.
Many groups have helped build Bishop Johnson’s Hospitality House, a home that is being purchased by a delightful young couple from Burma, Seng and Zau Nmawn, and their son Samuel. As their home nears completion, our Habitat Community is broader. Bishop Johnson would be proud.
Durham Habitat applauds Bishop Johnson’s vision and his legacy. May each Durham Habitat home be a Hospitality Home, and may our community be a Hospitable Community. Shalom, As-salamu alaykum, Peace be with us all. And most of all… peace to our many Durham neighbors who still live in substandard housing.
We hope you’ll join us in 2016 - we need your help. To donate or volunteer to the Durham Habitat community, visit durhamhabitat.org.
Hospitality House builders shared their messages of Hope and Love.
Future Habitat home buyer Seng Nmawn pictured with Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple and the Episcopal Diocesan staff.
Seng and Samuel Nmawn with Reach Out NC came out and celebrated a rainy Hospitality House kick-off in October.