In Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World, Sharon Parks and her collaborators looked for commonalities among people who were living "lives of commitment." Among the men and women they studied, only one kind of experience was common to them all. Each one, early in his or her life, had spent a time in a culture unlike his or her own, experiencing life outside their own "normal." This type of experience is life changing and shapes vocation for the rest of a person's life [the authors discovered]. Union Avenue Christian Church's Urban Mission Inn experience is shaped to provide just such a culturally immersive opportunity for groups of youth and young adults.
Are you seeking a hands-on mission opportunity for your youth, young adult, college or inter-generational group but not sure where to start or how to plan such a big project?
Union Avenue Christian Church hosts its own year-round Urban Mission Inn – dedicated space within our urban church – designed to house 20-plus people who have come to the inner city for mission work (or those groups who are passing through St. Louis on their way to do hands-on volunteer mission elsewhere and need a “port in the storm”).
Who Are We?
Union Avenue Christian Church is a congregation diverse in age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, biblical interpretation, physical ability, and political inclination. We celebrate and honor that diversity and welcome the struggle necessary to maintain it. We welcome you to join us in embracing that struggle by serving our urban community in hands-on, tangible ministry. Our goal with the Urban Mission Inn can be best summed up in the quote attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.”
We are prepared to welcome groups of up to 25 people (though we can negotiate with slightly larger groups).
separate sleeping areas for males and females (or however you would choose to divide the group)
bunk beds and inflatable mattresses
four on-site showers
community lounge areas suitable for meals, group worship or discussion time
commercial-quality kitchen space for preparing meals and storing food – we provide all the pots/pans/utensils required to prepare meals and the plates/utensils/cups/glasses for eating your meals; we'll send you a comprehensive list of items you can expect to find in our kitchen when we send you registration materials
Groups are asked to arrive on a Saturday and depart on a Friday or Saturday. Some are able to do this but others, because of pastoral commitments and other reasons, are not. If you need to make other arrangements please contact us via email (urbanmissioninn [at] gmail [dot] com). We also welcome groups of all sizes to the Urban Mission Inn during fall break, winter break, spring break, and weekend retreats for youth or intergenerational groups.
But wait … There’s more!
In addition to providing space, we also offer help in planning your urban experience by assisting you, if needed, in scheduling up to 4 days of volunteer opportunities and urban immersion experiences at local food pantries, homeless shelters, programs for inner city children, senior centers, community gardens, and other ministries and outreach organizations that might suit your group’s gifts. Some of these projects offer opportunities for hand-on service. Others provide an opportunity for groups to learn more about the cries and needs of the inner city. We can also offer suggestions for cultural activities unique to St. Louis to help enrich your urban experience. Groups are invited to stay for anywhere from a week to just a weekend.
“Great,” you're thinking, “but what will this cost?”
Though we welcome any donation a group might want to give to this outreach ministry, we only ask for $15 per person, per week. Our main goal is to provide a welcoming space for those who are coming to help the “least of these” in the St. Louis area.
Union Avenue Christian Church is situated near downtown St. Louis, mere blocks from “The Loop” (a neighborhood in nearby University City that caters to college students and offers a host of ethnic restaurants, affordable fast food, and shops) as well as being conveniently located near the St. Louis Arch and riverfront, the City Garden, the City Museum, Busch Stadium (home of the St. Louis Cardinals), and Forest Park (home of the St. Louis Zoo, Science Center, Art Museum, and other free attractions).
Check out this documentary excerpt detailing the social justice issues of urban St. Louis as represented by the stark differences between urban populations in our city along Delmar Avenue, right next to the Urban Mission Inn. Also, have a look at one group's documenting of their Urban Mission Inn experience.
OTHER LOCAL HOUSING OPTIONS
If you are seeking a mission location in St. Louis on dates we are unavailable, we recommend these two organizations:
TESTIMONIALS TO THE URBAN MISSION INN EXPERIENCE
“Your accommodations were fabulous. Without your program we would not have been able to accomplish a mission trip out of our own small town.” Fredricktown Christian Church
“Thank you so much for your overwhelming hospitality through the Urban Mission Inn. The youth from FCC Paris were profoundly impacted by our experience. Because of your help, they encountered poverty in a new way and realized that they can make a difference. Plus, at the end of each day we could come home to a clean and spacious living area. Your ministry is so powerful and it is obviously not a coincidence, but the result of much intention.” First Christian, Paris TN
“Everything exceeded my expectations. Our whole group wants to come back. Hospitality was shown to our whole group through all the resources you provided. Our group not only looked forward to the work assignments but all the downtime at such a comfortable and relaxing church. As a leader, I have never had so much time to just listen to how our kids were seeing God active because I am usually so busy planning the next event. Your staff did an amazing job setting up meaningful worksites for us to see what God is up to in the St. Louis area.” Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Champaign, IL
“We were welcomed very generously. Thank you for the extravagant hospitality. It is such a blessing to find a church with showers — not to mention one intentionally opening their doors to teenagers.” Lee’s Summit Christian Church
“I was just hoping someone could host us but you gave us great contacts for work too. It’s been a blessing to bring my ‘country’ youth to an urban setting and have such helpful guides.” First Christian Church, Pittsburgh, KS
“This location was excellent for our trip. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. The staff was very kind and let us know anything we asked or needed to know. You all are truly a blessing and we thank you for allowing us to utilize your facility. This has been the best stay I’ve experienced out of my five alternative spring breaks!” Ball State University