Wash. Church Hosts Super Bowl Party for the Homeless

While many people opened up their houses and apartments to friends and family to watch Super Bowl XLVI, one Washington state church decided to invite the homeless.

First Covenant Church of Spokane held a Super Bowl watch party where over 130 homeless people came for a good meal, dessert, and of course, to cheer on either the Patriots or the Giants.

Rob Bryceson, pastor at First Covenant, told CP that this was part of the church's weekly effort that began in 2009 to care for people from an impoverished surrounding neighborhood.

"The neighborhood is full of homeless shelters, prison work release houses, and guys sleeping in the streets," said Bryceson.

"In September of 2009 we made a huge vat of chili and sheets of cornbread while I walked the streets and back alleys inviting every drunk, addict, prostitute, and urban camper I could find to come in and eat for free and watch football on the big screen TV."

Bryceson talked about many of the programs his church is involved in that help the poor – a population reflected in his congregation.

"Seventy five people gather in our church to worship each week. About half are homeless. They throw their backpacks and bed rolls under a pew, grab a coffee and join in singing praying and worshipping," said Bryceson.

"In all honestly, it's really just another Sunday service for us. We do this all year long. The biggest difference is that the game starts late so Super Bowl Sunday we don't get done until 7:30."

"Rob does a great job in serving the homeless population and he is very near the 'center' of the homeless community activity," said Alan Eschenbacher, pastor of nearby All Saints Lutheran Church.

"I think the Super Bowl party for the street folk is a wonderful idea, any distraction is welcome and needed."

Bryceson and Eschenbacher are both members of the Spokane Homeless Coalition, a group of various organizations that meet monthly at All Saints Lutheran.

"All of the service providers for the homeless get together to discuss current issues and work together to provide and not duplicate services," said Eschenbacher.

In addition to the weekly meals it provides to Spokane's needy, First Covenant also holds AA meetings and has medical students from the Gonzaga University Nursing Program come in and do free weekly health checks.

"Funding is tough. Our church is dirt poor and we raise all of the money for these meals from outside donations," said Bryceson.

"We weren't sure we would have a meal next week for the first time in two-and-a-half years. Just before the meal, a pastor from another local neighborhood church walked in and gave us a $500 check."

For its part, All Saints Lutheran also provides a weekly meal to needy Spokane residents. It also, in cooperation with a sister church called Salem Lutheran, oversees two building apartment complex with 47 units for low income people.

"This complex also includes a commercial space that we own that has a thriving coffee shop and book store that are full service but also geared to be friendly to lower income folk," said Eschenbacher.