by Dusty Luthy
I was on campus one January morning when the student body of Memphis Theological Seminary received an email for a local crime alert. Apparently an individual had snuck into Founders Hall the evening before, and had hunkered down for a night of refuge from the cold. By the time I had arrived for my winter session course, the individual had been removed from the premises.
I joked to my classmates that MTS should just become a host for Room in The Inn, the local ministry that helps house those experiencing homelessness. It made sense, I laughed, since the school is comprised of three former private residences (anchored by the beautiful Joseph Newburger House, now called Founders Hall), with showers and kitchens still intact.
My professor, Dr. Janel Kragt Bakker, didn’t think it was quite the joke I did. “What if we were to become an RITI host,” she asked me, “what if we did ignite the campus to put all its ministerial resources to work?”
Here I was, just trying to elicit laughs from my colleagues, and now I was discerning Dr. Bakker’s questions as a prodding of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Bakker went so far as to mention the idea to Dr. Pete Gathje, the dean and vice president of academic affairs at MTS. He didn’t see my suggestion as a joke, either, and suggested I introduce the idea to the MTS Student Senate.
I’ll spare you the administrative details, but within just a few weeks, thanks to some amazing individuals at MTS and RITI who worked to process a lot of red tape, Room in The Inn at Memphis Theological Seminary (RITI@MTS) has been green-lighted. We have a planning team in place, and Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace is now our faculty-staff liaison. In the near future, we hope the ministry becomes institutionalized as an arm of the Student Senate.
The plan will go like this: On Sunday evenings, once a month, MTS will take its place on the rotation through RITI that houses individuals experiencing homelessness. We’ll transport ten guests from their check-in at the Carpenter’s House in downtown Memphis to MTS where they will find hospitality at Hilliard Hall. Our guests will receive a meal, snacks, hygiene items, and maybe most important — rest. In the morning, our guests will receive breakfast, then transportation back to the Carpenter’s House.
What do we need? Volunteers will be needed those Sunday nights for set up, transportation, meal supply and delivery, overnight staff, and cleanup. We’re also still discussing small capital investments of bedding and cots, and even smaller ongoing costs for hospitality items and meals. If you’d like to be a volunteer this fall, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information. If you’d like to contribute financially to the ministry, you can send a check directly to Room in The Inn (212 N. Second St., Memphis, TN 38105), with “MTS” in the memo line.
Above all, we hope to embody the radical hospitality and love that we so freely preach and teach here at Memphis Theological Seminary.