Symbolic Frame

The Symbolic Frame uses meaning and beliefs to create a culture. In any organization, there are values, rituals, and stories that make up the environment and symbols that support a cause. Symbolic interpretation creates unity and adds meaning to the culture of an organization. The Symbolic Frame will connect the culture of the organization and roots to student identities.

Cliff Huie and Doris Reimer embracing an Immanuel's House community member during the community meal.Sewing group working on Immanuel's House Christmas Stockings

Eight years ago, my three friends, Carmen Winiarski, Pastor Karen Erskine-Valentine, and Pastor Millie Rivera, and myself (Mary Gunderson King) were seeing a need for a place that welcomed folks who were homeless, struggling with mental health issues, and/or dealing with substance abuse.

A lit candle.

Lit Candle: Each time a candle is lit at Immanuel’s House, it symbolizes God’s peace and presence in that space, but a lit candle also represents the light within each person that comes to Immanuel’s House and the presence and energy they give to one another. (Photo by Mary Gunderson King, 2018)

We  saw a need for a church that wasn’t just about being a Sunday morning worship space, but a church that lived out loving neighbor throughout the week as much as that was possible.   The four of us had been working at a United Methodist Church together serving the minority community, but the congregation really was struggling to allow a very different community into their church.  They felt uncomfortable and unsafe.  So we found it critical to start a church that jumped right into walking alongside the impoverished community and wrestling through some of the issues folks carried.


Hands enfolding a cup of coffee.

A Cup of Coffee: Hospitality and inviting people into a peaceful space is a crucial ministry of Immanuel’s House. A cup of coffee provides not only an opportunity for comfort and warmth, but as as well as building needed friendships. (Photo by Mary Gunderson King, 2018)

We were aware that the issues that folks faced in poverty were and are incredibly complicated and it takes spiritual and physical care as well as simply building relationship to help bring someone to a place of peace and stability in their life.  A weekly community meal was not enough to address the greater need that many of the folks in poverty dealt with.  Their stories needed to be heard, their faces needed to be seen, and truly they just needed to be embraced as a beloved human being.  They needed a church to say to them we’ll be present with you.  The presence really could only take place by creating a space of hospitality, a place where during the week people could stop by and rest and become a part of a loving and supportive community.


It didn’t take too long till we realized that many of the folks we were serving were in and out of the local jail in Martinsburg.  This spawned a Recovery Bible Study specifically with the women at Eastern Regional Jail as there was already a ministry for the men there.   Other ministries have evolved at Immanuel’s House, but love and hospitality are at the core of who we are and what we do, no matter the particulars of the ministry.


We have had changes in our core team over time.  Both Pastor Millie Rivera and Carmen Winiarski have stepped into new journeys in their life, but they both left profound blessings upon Immanuel’s House.  Much to our joy, Doris Reimer and Cliff Huie joined the core team and have woven their unique spirit with Immanuel’s House.



Gunderson King, M.  (2017). Broken We Are One [Online image].  Retrieved September 17, 2018 from

Gunderson King, M.  (2017). Immanuel’s House Sewing Group at Immanuel’s House in Martinsburg  [Online image].  Retrieved September 17, 2018 from

Gunderson King, M. (2018). A Lit Candle [Uploaded image].

Gunderson King, M. (2018). Hands Enfolding a Cup of Coffee [Uploaded image].

Comments are closed.