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Park Hill United Methodist Church shares its building with Temple Micah.
During the Jewish holiday, Temple Micah welcomes parishioners for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while believers personally attend the services of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, members of the Temple Micah community also meet their new neighbors.
Temple Micah, which has approximately 180 member households, rents its premises from Park Hill United Methodist Church, located on Montview Boulevard between Forest and Glencoe Streets. Since June, the church has been leasing its parking lot to the Colorado Village Collaborative, which operates a safe campground for the homeless there. The plan to build a safe campground in South Park Hill angered some neighbors, some of whom have sued and contested the decision in city administrative hearings. But the members of the Temple Micah Congregation have welcomed the residents of the site.
“I volunteered alone in the secure outdoor area just to see what it was about. Then I saw them asking for meals on different days, for lunch or dinner. I thought it would make sense for our congregation to bring food. “Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, because we would be there,” says Johanna Ladis, a congregation member of Temple Micah, which tries to help the three dozen people to provide meals to those living next to the synagogue.
The website offers meals to residents through what is known as a “meal train”. Volunteers from all over Denver, including a few neighbors, sign up for lunch or dinner and then bring meals.
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“This project has really brought forth fellowship among many people and many denominations and individual families. It was a great honor. Our food train runs constantly. We rarely have gaps where we have to buy a meal for one of those amazing things, “says Cuica Montoya, the site’s manager.
Members of the Temple Micah Ward provided Rosh Hashanah with 35 lunches on September 7th. And they will offer 35 more lunches on September 16 on Yom Kippur 35.
“Some people did ten, others three. There were about eight families who volunteered,” explains Ladis. “In these ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we think about how we can be better people, better people.”
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The safe campsite in Park Hill.
The decision to offer meals came when members of Temple Micah were considering how to put their beliefs into practice, something they try every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
“We always have a certain amount of action. The holiday intent is really inward, and that’s important, but we’ve always had some action, ”said Adam Morris, Rabbi of Temple Micah.
Denver has had safe campsites since December when the nonprofit Earthlinks and the Colorado Village Collaborative established two homeless spaces on Capitol Hill, complete with ice fishing tents and centralized access to services, showers, and restrooms. When the six-month leases for these land expired mid-year, the CVC signed new leases with Regis University and Park Hill United Methodist Church to operate sites on their properties.
The Regis University site, which is located in a parking lot on the school campus, was largely undisputed. However, the Park Hill United Methodist Church’s move instantly angered some neighbors who believed that the decision had been taken without notice and that safety concerns and potential nuisance had not been worked out beforehand. A lawsuit is pending related to these concerns and issues with the way the City of Denver handled the permit for the site. It is the second complaint against the site; the first named Nathan Adams, senior pastor of Park Hill United Methodist, as one of the plaintiffs.
“I respect people’s rights, so you can disagree,” said Morris of the current lawsuit. “And that’s fine. It’s not by force, and it’s not vitriol, and it’s legal. I disagree, but if you disagree, follow the legal process.” Adams consulted with Morris before the Church offered to rent the parking lot for the secure campsite.
Morris thinks the website is well run and quiet. “When I don’t look in, it’s pretty quiet over there, even though it’s only in the parking lot. I think it’s been very positive so far,” he says.
This is not the first time Park Hill United Methodist Church and Temple Micah have been involved in social causes. In August 2018, the Church offered shelter to Araceli Velasquez, an undocumented immigrant, to avoid detention and deportation by immigration and customs authorities.
The temple now lights a candle during services to pay tribute to people who are homeless in Denver. “We started with this custom when we were hosting Araceli and her family in the sanctuary,” recalls Morris. “Whenever we gathered to pray together, we lit the candle.”
The glowing candle represented the “Temple’s commitment to Araceli and our values to create a just, compassionate world,” added Morris. “It feels like a real, authentic ritual.”
The Temple Micah community has also begun collecting various items to create care packages that members can distribute to the homeless.
“We’ll put them together on Thursday [September 16], and then the members keep them in their cars. So when you see people and drive at intersections, you can offer them something with water, snacks, socks, sunscreen and other things that might be helpful, “says Ladis.” It is definitely an integral part of the Jewish faith to give back and that To help the less fortunate, to help our community, and to help our neighbors. ”