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-- Rev. Dr. Deborah Little Wyman, Founder of Ecclesia Ministries and common cathedral Boston, and Ecclesia Missioner to other cities.
Are you interested in participating in street ministry with homeless people? Looking for a different way to "do church"? Do you want to belong to a spiritual community not defined by buildings or other economic, racial, class, or cultural barriers? Are you already engaged with homeless people but want to go deeper or broader in your outreach?
Not everyone can come inside for what churches uniquely offer - community, friendship, and blessing. Mental and physical disabilities, as well as experiences with indoor churches, limit the ability of many to come inside for church or other resources.
This Mission grows out of a street ministry begun in 1994 in Boston. The ministry began with one priest hanging out on park benches, meeting and praying with people. This grew to include an outdoor church, pastoral care in hospitals, Bible studies, and many other aspects of church. Since beginning the mission in 2001, some 80 cities in the US, Brazil, UK are offering their own versions of street ministry. The Boston ministry and many others are also deeply engaged in outreach to traditional churches, schools, seminaries and others wanting to visit, volunteer or do supervised learning programs in our homeless communities.
We offer free guidance, companionship and support for those interested in creating outdoor ministries. Committed to our shared mission, The Rev. Dr. Debbie Little Wyman and founders of other ministries are available to assist in dreaming and planning new street ministries. We offer consulting, site visits, training in street ministry, organizational development, and small start-up grants for new affiliates. We also offer an annual conference (Come and See Weekend) for new ministries to gather, learn, and support each other. In addition, anyone interested in street ministry is welcome at any time to visit the Boston ministry or others around the country.
Street Ministry is often the way we first meet those in need. Ecclesia ministers spend hours each week sitting with and listening to people on the streets. We never know where we will end up when we set off in the morning. Shop doorways, disused wharves, benches and sidewalks are frequent locales but so are coffee shops, train stations and the back pews of churches. We are able, often, to direct people to resources that will meet most immediate needs such as food, blankets, and emergency medical referrals. We also work closely with medical, mental-health and housing outreach workers to better serve these needs in the long-term. The main thing we do during street ministry, however, is accompany those in pain. Sitting with people for hours and hours over days and days, and listening deeply to the stories they choose to tell us, births a process of deep-rooted healing that is hard to ignite any other way.
Chronically homeless people with whom we work most often, continue to have the hardest time escaping homelessness, finding permanent housing, and reintegrating into community. For these individuals, perception of the world has been impaired by drugs, alcohol, unsuccessful social experiences, and, all too often, diagnosable mental illnesses. There has been a loss of trust in themselves and others ? a basic loss of belief. Reestablishing connection, trust, and belief is the heart of what we do as an ecumenical, Christian community.