The King's Jubilee Ministers to the Homeless of Philadelphia
Since 1989, The King’s Jubilee ministry has been serving the poor and homeless people of Philadelphia. In addition, Jubilee workers have also been able to encourage and mentor others who have followed their model and developed programs in their own communities.
At the heart of this effort is Cranford Joseph Coulter and the community of St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, shepherded by Fr. Noah Bushelli. Explains Coulter, “Our vehicle leaves St. Philip’s parking lot every Thursday (and some Tuesdays) at 7 pm full of sandwiches, fruit, clothing, toiletries and goodies to share. Some parishioners ride together and more meet us downtown where we serve on the street. Three times, we have received grants from Food for Hungry People and the local members of the Order of St. Ignatius helped us buy a van.”
Cranford explains why the ministry is named The King’s Jubilee. “The jubilee in the Law of Moses was to happen every 50th year. There were to be Sabbath years every 7th year; the fields were to lie fallow and Hebrew slaves were freed for the year to give them opportunity to earn enough to buy their freedom permanently. The 50th year was a Sabbath of Sabbaths. It followed the 7th Sabbath year and included the cancellation of all debts, the freeing of slaves, and the redistribution of the land.”
He adds, “our God is a God of ‘second chances’ and the Jubilee reflects this. One may make bad decisions which land one in poverty, debt and bondage. The Sabbath year comes along and gives a break and an opportunity to possibly work into a better situation. Every 50 years comes a radical redistribution, and another shot to live in freedom.”
From 1985-1988, Coulter worked fulltime as a volunteer prison chaplain, where he observed firsthand the struggles and hardships faced by people at the bottom rungs of society. “It seemed to me that if I were to have any kind of authentic voice to speak to these large and complicated issues, involving land use and zoning, discrimination, addictions, welfare dependency, absentee fathers, the depersonalization of our society, etc., I needed to do something personally to be more a part of a solution and less a part of the problem.”
This led to the founding of The King’s Jubilee, a simple effort that involved the Coulter family (Cranford, his wife Bethann, and their four daughters) and a few friends. Over the years the ministry has grown to outreach in seven towns in five counties and two states.
“We still feed between 75 and 175 people each Thursday evening in Center City Philadelphia in Jesus’ Name,” says Coulter. “We have met a lot of interesting people along the way. What we do is not burdensome or sacrificial any more than having family is burdensome or sacrificial.”
What is his advice for other parishes that want to start a similar ministry? Cranford emphasizes that it doesn’t take a great deal of money, but just “a selfish willfulness to do the right thing...it is possible to share the mercies of God in tangible ways that make a difference in people’s lives. It doesn’t take a committee or a bureaucracy or a whole lot of resources.”
For more information, go the The King's Jubilee's website, shoutforjoy.net, or write to:
The King’s Jubilee
27 N. Front St.
Souderton, PA 18964-1148