When the Rev. Lynn Hargrove came to Houston’s St. Giles Presbyterian Church in 2008 as a stated supply pastor, the church was depressed and inward-looking.
But it continued to run a food pantry that had been serving people who were homeless for the past 25 years. Church members had formed relationships with some of the regular visitors to the pantry, and one day in 2011, the pantry’s manager suggested opening St. Giles’ doors to provide a warm place to sleep on cold winter nights.
In Houston, it’s not uncommon for Christmas Day to be 70 degrees, Hargrove said, adding that the idea of cold winter nights in Houston seemed impossible.
“Two days later, God gave Houston, Texas, 20 degrees,” she said.
St. Giles opened its doors and hosted about a dozen people for the unusual two-week cold snap.
During that time, some church members and leaders also spent the night at the church, and others brought blankets, movies and food from home.
“It ended up being kind of a turning point for this congregation,” Hargrove said. “They became more aware of the homeless people around the church.”
Many of the people who slept in the church ended up joining the congregation and volunteering in the food pantry.
St. Giles remained in a state of transition, and a few years later, it decided to give its property to Pathways, a new and growing second-generation Korean congregation. Some of the St. Giles members ended up joining Pathways — as did some of the people who were homeless.
Pathways continues the mission of the food pantry and also hosts a community Thanksgiving meal every year.
“It was so cool to watch the community build,” Hargrove said. “For me, that was the true communion table.”