Every Fall, during the Jewish season of Sukkot (sometime between mid-September and mid-October), Anthony's Plot holds the Festival of Shelters - a practice we learned from our friends at the Open Door Community. Sukkot is a season of 7 nights when the people of God are commanded to leave their homes and move into shelters; this is done as an act of remembrance of how God dwelt among the Hebrew people as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years...without home or land. They were a homeless community. The Festival of Shelters is a prophetic commentary on where God dwells still today: not in homes and buildings and churches, but on the street for exactly as long as we allow fellow human beings to exist on those same streets.
During the Festival of Shelters, we relocate our lives to downtown Winston-Salem to show solidarity with our city's homeless community by sleeping each night on the public ground (usually in cardboard boxes) and spending each day with our unhoused friends. Among these friends, we listen to stories, direct toward resources, and pray together. In the evenings, we invite the wider community to educational events, worship services, and to sleep on the street with us. Throughout the day we eat with our friends -- sandwiches and soup and sometimes a banquet - because when you are homeless, just eating and existing in public is a radical act of defiance (one that includes punishment).
But let's be clear: our primary activity is one of Remembering. As Ed Loring says, "it is a time to remember God and the poor, and to step forward on the jagged journey for justice." We are placing our bodies where we can feel and remember the experiences of those who have no place to lay their heads in our very own booming city, and we remember the life of Jesus who said he also had no place to lay his head. We go to these little "shelters" to remember the poor who are unhoused, perhaps mentally unhealthy, often imprisoned, maybe struggling with addictions, because it is hard to remember well when we are comfortable in our own homes.
This is a holy season for Anthony's Plot, and we are honored when others join us. Whether you feel led to help us prepare food, spend time with us in the day, sleep on the street with us at night, or attend one of our evening community events, we welcome you. During late summer, we will share a schedule for the Festival and how to support or be involved.