Written by Anthony Moujaes
A minister at Christ Church United UCC in Lowell, Mass., Lovett took to his bicycle for the middle portion of a three-part trip across the country, stopping in Cleveland along the way. He is spending three summers on the road and his is goal is to collect donations and raise awareness for homelessness for the church's project, All Souls House.
"In order to embrace our mission and welcome our neighbors and reduce our operating costs, we're going to shoehorn five units of affordable housing for families in our fellowship hall," Lovett said. The church has been working with state and local housing developers for three years to turn the fellowship hall into suitable living spaces for homeless persons. He's been pastor at Christ Church United UCC for six years.
"I decided to earmark All Souls House as an organization I wanted to fund, that I would bike across-country over three summers to draw attention to the need of homelessness across the nation, but also to raise funds for this project of mine," Lovett said.Lovett and Alex Ray, a friend who joined the pastor for the ride from Cleveland to Buffalo, made a stop in downtown Cleveland Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 2, at the UCC's national headquarters. Outfitted in red and yellow biking shirts, they spoke about the project and its importance to the Lowell community.
"It represents a local church having the vision and energy to transform itself for a new century so that it can stay alive and not simply fight over loose slates or a leaky roof, but set itself up for the future," Lovett said. As the church is retrofitted to help homeless persons, the overall benefits to the building include new electrical work, plumbing, heating, an elevator, and a reduction in operating costs.
Last summer, Lovett biked from Boston to Buffalo and raised $6,000 in the process. By the end of the week, his second stretch across the country from Des Moines, Iowa, to Buffalo should be complete. After witnessing droughts in Iowa, Lovett and Ray hope for cooler weather along Lake Erie into the eastern part of New York. Next summer, Lovett plans to find a way to bike from San Francisco to Des Moines to complete a 3,300-mile circuit.
While additional fundraising will be needed to finish the project, the idea to raise money for the All Souls House came from UCC Massachusetts Conference Minister the Rev. Jim Antal, a biking enthusiast. And Lovett had already used his love of biking to raise money –– a previous trek raised $26,000 for cancer research.
Lowell, Mass., once had 10 UCC churches, but only two remain today. Lovett hope the All Souls House project ensures a bright future for his congregation. "In order to have a viable presence in the city for generations to come, we need get serious about the decline that exists, and the demographics of the city that are very different from two or three generations ago," Lovett said.