Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Philosopher Michael Sandel will explore the “tyranny of merit” in an unequal society, part of a talk at a Saturday fundraiser for First Church Homeless Ministries. (Photo: Jared Leeds for Harvard)

First Church in Cambridge plans a virtual fundraising gala Saturday for two community ministries continuing to take in and support the homeless, featuring a talk with philosopher Michael Sandel and, beforehand, a taped cooking demonstration from chef Tony Maws, owner of Craigie on Main.

“UNCommon: A celebration of First Church Homeless Ministries’ Uncommon Commitment to the Common Good,” is the theme of the event, to be held 7 to 8 p.m Saturday via YouTube Premier, reflecting a question Sandel asks in his book “The Tyranny of Merit”: “What’s become of the common good?”

First Church Homeless Ministries leaders say that from a location on Cambridge Common, it maintains a tradition of nurturing the common good, bringing neighbors of all ages and backgrounds together to support the most vulnerable: those without reliable housing or food. First Church Homeless Ministries includes the First Church Shelter, a 14-bed men’s shelter that has served the homeless for 30 years, and The Friday Cafe, which provides meals, clothing, resources and community to 100 people weekly. During the pandemic, Homeless Ministries has also helped provide showers and four evening meals a week to make up for gaps in services.

The “tyranny of merit” in an unequal society will be explored by Sandel, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass professor of government theory at Harvard University Law School, in conversation with Stephanie Paulsell, interim minister of Memorial Church, a professor of Christian studies at Harvard Divinity School and author of several works on religion, spirituality and literature.

Maws’ taped cooking demonstration for ticket holders prior to the gala grows out of a longtime food partnership with Homeless Ministries, leaders said. Ticket holders will also be invited to participate in a Zoom book group led by members of the event team.

Harvard Book Store is the event’s sponsor. For every copy of “The Tyranny of Merit” sold at, the store will make a donation to First Church Homeless Ministries.

Tickets and event sponsorship information are at

This post took significant amounts of material from a press release.