The spirit of a community thrives in its stories, even when they are difficult to tell, or to hear. At Triune Mercy Center, people’s stories are heard, ampli ed, and sometimes rewritten forever. The church’s main ministry is to those who are homeless, but people from all stations and walks of life come together as worshippers to rebuild the sense of connectedness that homelessness often destroys.
One of the primary avenues where people bond at Triune—learning about each other and themselves—is through the arts. In the art room, artists who might not have a home teach or paint alongside college students and established artists who work in carefully appointed studio spaces. Homeless individuals lead parts of the weekly worship, taking the stage during musical ministry. Players enact personal stories others have shared, combating the pervasive feeling of invisibility that many among the homeless population experience.
“You’ll see homeless people worshiping with lawyers, prosecutors—just whole cross sections of Greenville,” says Chip Price, who originally arrived at Triune as a legal service volunteer.
He has now been a regular worshiper for three years. “I had always thought of Triune as just kind of a soup kitchen: give ’em food, give ’em clothes, pat ’em on the back, see you later. But that was a total misconception. We’re not just into the giveaways, we want to help people who want to help themselves get out of poverty, or do whatever it is they can do.”
“WE, THE MEMBERS OF CASCADES VERDAE, ARE VERY PLEASED TO SUPPORT THE TRIUNE MERCY CENTER. WE ARE PROUD TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ASSIST THIS WORTHY ORGANIZATION CONTRIBUTE SO MUCH TOWARD EMPOWERING AND ENABLING GREENVILLE RESIDENTS DURING STRESSFUL TIMES, SO THAT THEY CAN RESUME CARING FOR THEMSELVES.”
Leah Parisi, chair, Cascades Resident’s Advisory Council
Pastor Deb Richardson-Moore says she also entered with the wrong idea 11 years ago. “When middle-class people began showing up for that worship service, I think I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ But without fail they said, ‘I think this is what the kingdom of God looks like.’”
Triune does offer conventional services for those without homes, providing 2,000 free meals and 100 boxes of food each month. Healthcare providers park dental vans and mobile medical units in the parking lot, or come inside to donate services alongside other organizations.
After more than a decade on the job, Richardson-Moore says one point of pride is the twice-weekly social worker roundtable meetings that shepherd people through small steps on the road to stability.
MAKING ROOM // As a pastor and community member, Deb Richardson- Moore understands the needs of her parishioners. Whether or not they have a physical dwelling place, Triune Mercy Center offers its people something priceless—the feeling of being home.
“A lot of times, by the time they get to us they’re overwhelmed, jobless, no family, no address, no transportation,” says Richardson-Moore. But the social workers help them answer the questions, “What is my next step? What can I accomplish this week?” People who are highly motivated can then move into a yearlong support circle of volunteers to brainstorm future plans. “The most exciting part is seeing people move on,” says Richardson-Moore.
All parishioners are called to explore the paths they should take. “I’m reluctant to assign people a volunteer job. What I prefer is for you to come here, hang out, and then tell me what you want to do,” says Richardson-Moore. It’s not for her to decide how people add their line to the collective story, whether it’s by making paintings, playing guitar, joining a 12-step group, or doing eye exams. It’s her job to leave space on the page. “All I have to do is say yes when they want to come in,” she says.
THE COMMUNITY SPIRIT AWARD IS GIVEN TO AN OUTSTANDING LOCAL NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT SERVES THE COMMUNITY THROUGH ITS VITAL PROGRAMS AND THROUGH ITS EXCEPTIONAL EFFORTS TO COMMUNICATE AND PARTNER WITH OTHER NONPROFITS.