Startup Westchester is developing a documentary and web series about hunger, homelessness, and poverty.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ ~ Matthew 25: 35-40
The Food Bank for Westchester estimates 200,000 Westchester County residents are hungry, or are at risk of hunger. More than half of them are seniors and one-third are children under the age of 18.
One organization addressing the issue is Hope Community Services. With the assistance and support of a host of volunteers, HOPE opened the doors of its first soup kitchen in 1984. Since its early days, HOPE has grown to become the largest emergency food pantry and soup kitchen in the region. Although HOPE Community Services was founded to respond to hunger in the community, it quickly became apparent that food was not the only thing our clients were lacking. Clothing, language skills, emotional support, immigration services, and other daily necessities were also needed. HOPE Community Services expanded its services to meet the needs of its diverse client population.
The “New Needy”
In the last 12 months the demand for our services increased by 44%. Not only are the numbers increasing, the demographics are changing as well. We are now seeing an increase in women with children, entire families, and elderly clients on a fixed income.
These are people who have never been to a soup kitchen or food pantry before. They are the newly unemployed, people whose unemployment benefits have run out, people whose hours have been cut. Many of these people are now being forced to choose between paying rent and buying food.
The Challenge We Face
Although the demand for our services has increased, funding has decreased. Several major sources of funding in the past have been either reduced or discontinued. Proposed federal, city, and county budget cuts will affect HOPE as well.
The Ascent of Intellectual Orthodoxy
For most of Western history, religion has been primarily a matter of orthopraxy, not orthodoxy. In fact, no doctrine made any sense without participation in the community of faith and in its rituals. No doubt, there were certain thoughts or “beliefs” that mattered and were of extreme importance; however, unlike today, these convictions were never understood as either the core or the purpose of the religious life.
In fact, for most of Western history “belief” has meant nothing like what it means today. Today, when someone asks me if I believe in God, for example, they are asking if I assent to the proposed verity or the factual existence of God—and usually it is in reference to a very specific understanding of that God. Similarly, if I’m asked if I have “faith in Christ”, the question is whether I agree with the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth was divine, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead, or some form of that story. In both cases, questions of “belief” and questions of “faith” require answers of thought.
Yet, as surprising as it may seem, these understandings are relatively recent. “Faith” has its etymological roots in the Greek pistis, “trust; commitment; loyalty; engagement.” Jerome translated pistis into the Latin fides (“loyalty”) and credo (which was from cor do, “I give my heart”). The translators of the first King James Bible translated credo into the English “belief,” which came from the Middle English bileven (“to prize; to value; to hold dear”). Faith in God, therefore, was a trust in and loyal commitment to God. Belief in Christ was an engaged commitment to the call and ministry of Jesus; it was a commitment to do the gospel, to be a follower of Christ. In neither case were “belief” or “faith” a matter of intellectual assent.