Listening to many the stories of housing issues are similar. One couple a few months ago found housing after more than a year of homelessness. After only 2 months they are looking again as the place they hoped to call home is being converted to something else and they are out. They desperately look for a new place and find themselves in a long line of others doing the same. They were hopeful and yet discouraged - a rollercoaster - an emotional cycle of relief and dismay and then back again. It is complicated and confusing and difficult. She leans into me and whispers with tear filled eyes, ‘I can’t come back here to the shelter…’ Listening with my heart, giving emotional support in the moment, wondering why? Is it enough? For that moment of time, it was enough. Bearing God’s Grace to the helpless, to the least, to a beloved child of God – it is. Knowing things may get worse for them, being present with them, love and light bearers in a world of darkness and despair, helping them to hold onto hope.
May 10, 2018
March 28, 2018
After a recent prayer and Communion service, a group gathered around the car for some socks, hats, gloves, and face masks. Just as the last person walked away, a young man who had just received a pair socks suddenly went down to the ground hard. He was clearly high and may have been overdosing. A Resource Center Case Worker came across the street and she was already on the phone with 911. The thoughts raced through my mind… I’m not an EMT. What can I possible do? Then our mission statement came into my head. “We offer a consistent, compassionate, pastoral presence to the homeless and marginalized in downtown Portland, Maine.” That’s it, I was simply put there as a loving, compassionate presence. So, I held him and prayed. Nothing more and nothing less.
Unfortunately, this is all too common an event in the homeless community. Yet God finds ways to remind us that He’s always there, especially amidst the suffering.
January 18, 2018
Every so often, there are little snapshot moments that almost perfectly encapsulate what street work is like. A couple of weeks back, I was walking up to the day shelter in 10-degree weather, carrying a backpack full of socks, another bag of socks so that I didn’t run out, and a bag of winter hats. I was wearing two coats, a hat and gloves and a scarf to keep the winter chill at bay. I was also limping because of a minor but annoying foot injury.
I took a breath, said a prayer, walked into the day shelter with all of this stuff, and I no sooner walked through the door than my glasses completely fogged up and I couldn’t see anything. I could still hear all the voices and ancillary noise of a chaotic day at the shelter, made all the more jagged by the cold weather, but I was essentially blind.
I took off my gloves and tried to wipe my fogged-over glasses on my shirt, meanwhile dropping various things on the floor as I stood in the middle of the chaos with little idea of what was going on around me, except for the young man who was telling me that the care given to the older man who had ultimately died the night before in the overnight shelter had been poorly managed. I was trying to respond to him, while simultaneously attempting to pick up dropped gloves and still wiping at my recalcitrant glasses.
I finally gave up on the glasses, shoved them in a pocket, dropped the extra socks I was carrying and tried to get my blurry bearings in the middle of it all. The young man continued to talk about the night before, and other folks were coming up to ask for socks. I bent over, picked up the bag of hats I’d dropped, fixed the young man with a blurry gaze and asked him if he’d mind giving out the hats to those who might need them. Hey stopped speaking and his face seemed to light up. “Sure,” he said, and he happily wandered off to distribute the hats.
I was trying to open bags of socks to give them out, when someone said “Hey, Pastor, you dropped your glove,” and he handed me my glove, disappearing before I could thank him.
November 22, 2017
On a very windy Sunday, we gathered, as we do every Sunday outside the Preble Street Resource Center. We come to be together, we come to find love and acceptance, we come to pray for each other, we come to be in the presence of the Holy sharing in God’s sacred feast. I experienced an unmistakable presence of the Holy this day and I was humbled.
holy amidst broken…
where two are gathered
on the corner with one
table, cloth, plate, chalice…
more joining looking for acceptance
storm brewing, gloves?
yes, after prayer circle
tiny sparrows hopping up down
flitting in and out of the chain-link fence
foraging for food in the litter
come, spirit, come
need hot drink, dunkin cards?
holy one guide my heart
bread of life, cup of blessing
love for all
prayers shared and lifted
for self for others
prayers for healing
wholeness in a world of bits and pieces
safety where sanctuary can be scarce
warmth in the cold and wind
crash - broken cup, spilt juice
washed in love
accepted by Christ
eye on the sparrow
just as i am
blessed to be present
in the holy
September 21, 2017
Every Sunday one or another Grace-Street Ministry pastor (now five in all) conducts the ministry’s 10-15 minute service of Prayer and Communion at the corner of Preble and Oxford streets across from the Preble street soup kitchen in Portland. S/he announces the service (by permission) inside the Resource center then walks down the hill, typically with 2, 3, or 4 four people, to set up the Table. Another 3 or 4 people waiting in the lunch line cross the street to join the service. A few more drop in as it proceeds. This way you might begin with 5 or 6 folks and end with 10 or 12, allowing for some coming and going. There are always new faces as well as regulars.
One hot Sunday last August, the service began and proceeded just so. The pastor greeted people, invited them around the circle to introduce and say a word about themselves, then offered the Prayer of St. Francis for all to read together. Closing the prayer and moving into Communion however, the pastor was interrupted by the beginnings of an altercation. This happens, and it requires attention.
On one side of the circle, a worshipper, pushing her walker before her, was advancing on another on the other side. There had been an apparent affront. The pastor, no more than a couple sentences into the sacrament, put down the Bread and was about to intervene. Then something new happened. The circle itself stepped in, itself intervened, put itself between the quarrelers and urged them kindly, skillfully, and effectively to let the service proceed. The circle re-formed, the Communion was served, we prayed ourselves out, a short benediction was spoken, socks and tee-shirts were distributed, requests for Tuesday were taken, and then, having owned the service, folks went on to lunch.