It Had the Makings of a Great Joke…

By Elizabeth Barker, American Red Cross

A priest, a rabbi, and a pastor walk into a shelter…

But in this case, that’s where the joke ended and interfaith worship began.

With the residents of the Dallas Convention Center, the auxiliary bishop, a visiting rabbi, and a local pastor recently celebrated worship services together.

The gathering area was not what you typically think of as the setting for a worship service. It was a humble section of the Resource Area with chairs, a microphone for the officiants to be heard, and two pages of printed program.

Although it was modest, the experience shared was profound.

One of the residents told me that Sunday worship has been a part of her life for the last 40 years. She was thankful that even in a shelter far from home, she is still able to keep her Sunday tradition.

Rabbi Shira Stern explains the role of spiritual care in Red Cross shelters. “Disaster Spiritual Care is here to listen to the residents; we help them articulate their pain. We are here for the crisis and the crunch.”

Chaplains and clergy in shelters are available to residents and those working in the area. Though the chaplains work closely with people who have lost everything, Rabbi Stern sees her work as a privilege.

“We are recipients of amazing stories. Even in trauma and tragedy, people are talking about how meaningful it is to see God’s hand in the generosity found here.”

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