Street Church is both a story and a manual.
The story is an introduction to the people and ministries of common cathedral, an outdoor worship community grounded in the good news of God's love for all people. This unique church without walls is the heart of Ecclesia Ministries, a non-profit organization which supports the spiritual and physical needs of homeless persons living in Boston.
The manual offers information, questions and resources to anyone who is drawn to be with homeless persons – in worship, friendship and service – in the context of a radically open Christian community. Intended as an inspiration and guide for others, the manual is a product of the Ecclesia Mission Project, headed by Ecclesia founder the Rev. Dr. Debbie Little Wyman and funded by the Ford Foundation.
The Ecclesia Mission Project encourages the creation of open faith communities in the streets of other urban areas. As new communities emerge in other geographic areas, each is unique. But each is guided by the commitment of common cathedral to stay on the street, and to keep the love of God and neighbor at the heart of the ministry.
Why street ministry?
Why be involved in a faith community that lives on the street? Listen to the responses of three members of common cathedral. Gary is a street and wilderness dweller. Ruth lives in a home with her family. Debbie is the founder of Ecclesia and common cathedral and author of "Church Under the Tree," from which all quotes in Street Church are taken.
From a street dweller…
The first time I ever encountered common cathedral was the very first day you started….I just happened to be cutting through the Common like I normally do…and the thing I could hear from the distance by Park Street Station was, "Come, listen. I have some good news." So I thought to myself, this ought to be thrilling, 'cause I haven't heard any good news for a long time. Gary
Every Sunday afternoon – rain, sleet, snow or shine – 100 to 150 people form a loosely configured circle around a portable altar in a corner of Boston Common. Some stand, and some sit on the benches and edge of the nearby fountain. Some keep a safe distance from the crowd, and others wander through. Many are there by choice, others by chance. The "good news" that draws them together is the radically inclusive love of God for all people. All who stand in the circle are regarded as members that day, and they represent all walks and ages of life: street people, home dwellers, volunteers from city and suburban churches, residents and vacationers just walking past. All are attracted to the church without walls because of its obvious goal to practice radical love as well as to preach it.
From a home dweller…
I first came to common cathedral Easter Sunday l998. I had been to the "Stations of the City" Good Friday walk …. And I also had been hoping to find a community up here that I could connect with. I'm very uncomfortable in church buildings and with the institution, and I also at this point very much find God in people, especially in marginalized people. One of the stops on the walk was common cathedral….I've felt the presence of God at common cathedral more than I have felt the presence of God anywhere in a long time. Elizabeth
Though common cathedral grew out of a simple communion service for homeless persons, the community has grown to include home dwellers whose spiritual needs are met by joining with their homeless brothers and sisters. Through the involvement of home-dwellers, the altar becomes a lunch counter after worship. After worship and during the week, scripture study, recovery, art and film programs are offered, and trained pastoral care counselors visit homeless members in jails.
As a result of its broad membership, common cathedral is doubly blessed. First, it offers sanctuary and community for people on the street. Second, it joins people from different walks of life, who, by being together in the spirit of God's barrier-breaking love, find themselves in an environment which promotes compassion and justice.
From the founder…
How did I get to the street?....I wanted to learn about God, and I wanted to learn what it is to be a servant. I wanted to get closer to people on the street, to help, to understand, to learn, and to see what it means to love your neighbor… What did the Hebrew prophet mean, what did Jesus mean, when they said if you really want to move closer to the heart of life, to the heart of God, get closer to the poor? Debbie
common cathedral, like its umbrella organization Ecclesia Ministries, grew out of the spiritual journey of the founder, the Rev. Dr. Debbie Little Wyman, who was drawn to be in relationship with marginalized people in her home city. What began as a personal and spiritual prompting eventually evolved into a ministry which she ran out of her daypack and the back seat of her car. Each step along the way was preceded by prayer, self-study and preparation, as her own life's need gradually reached out to answer the needs of others.
And your response?
You've just heard from three common cathedral members. Each reflection is taken from their response to the question: "What drew you to common cathedral?" What would your answer be to a similar question? Why are you reading Street Church? What draws you to the possibility of joining with street people in a spiritual community grounded in love of God and neighbor?
As new street communities have emerged through the Mission Project, each tells a story unique to its own characters and context. We offer this brief history of common cathedral's beginnings to give you some idea of the early promptings and steps of a street ministry that seeks to offer hospitality to all. Though foresight and planning are necessary, effective ministry unfolds in response to the relationships, gifts and needs of those gathered into it. The effectiveness of what evolves is also related to the self-awareness of the original leaders, whose personal stories and missions can enhance or hinder the work of the whole.
The founder's call
The original stirrings that led to the creation of Ecclesia and common cathedral are described in the words of the founder's memoir, "Church Under the Tree."
"How did I get to the street?" Debbie writes. "I had worked hard to learn my own story and was in recovery from a lot of life circumstances, and my own addictions and depression, conditions which frequently are true for people who are homeless. Because of my own story I had a special longing for people who are alone. I was coming out into the light, and I wanted to offer what I'd learned to other people."
After years of personal exploration and seminary training, Debbie was ordained as an Episcopal deacon in l994. A couple days afterwards she went out onto the streets with a backpack filled with socks, band-aids, sandwiches and juice boxes, a list of emergency services, crosses and a prayer book.
For the first year, she focused on building relationships – with street people; clergy in the downtown churches; advocates for marginalized people; and police, emergency and health care workers. When sitting with people living on the street, she listened, shared food and conversation, and when asked, offered counsel, a prayer or referral information. The first year was relationship-intensive and foundational. Out of the trust that developed through those relationships, the ministry began to take shape, beginning with the training of pastoral care teams who visited homeless persons in hospitals, clinics and respite care facilities.
The birth of common cathedral
In the fall of l995, Debbie began taking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Sunday afternoon to South Station,Boston's main train station and gathering place for homeless people in cold weather. On Christmas Eve that same year, she celebrated a simple, open communion service on a bench and invited the people she knew to join her if they wished. Eight people worshiped together that night, and more gathered each Sunday afternoon that she returned.
Several months later, after participating in a foot washing service on Maundy Thursday, Debbie describes a heightened awareness of the need for a church that was made of people and not of building. "We needed to pray," she explains of the community already growing around her. "We needed to pray, to celebrate, to talk and be present to people who sit around or pass by. We needed to pray for the city, to raise up the concerns of the streets, to bring alive a presence of hope and faith and hospitality. We needed to have communion."
Three days later, on Easter Day, in a corner of Boston Common, common cathedral gathered for the first time. Sixteen people formed a worship circle around a makeshift altar, with more joining them afterwards for sandwiches. "I have some good news," Debbie proclaimed that day. "God is right here with us."
When Debbie left that day, she made mental notes for the next year's Easter service on the Common, assuming shwould return to South Station for her usual Sunday service the next week. But all during the week that followed, people on the street greeted her with the good news that they would see her next Sunday on the Common. Since that Easter Sunday in l996, common cathedral has gathered in that same place, regardless of weather, for worship and a simple meal.
The birth of Ecclesia
Early in 1996, Debbie called together a small group of advisors to serve as an informal board, primarily for oversight of finances and planning. She imagined Ecclesia to be umbrella organization that would support the various ministries that were evolving.
The Ecclesia office was housed in her home study. Funds were raised through guest preaching every Sunday, individual donations and small grants from several churches and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Though at first she used an individual bank account for receipts and expenses, as soon as she could, she arranged to run the money through an established church's account, to allow for contributions to be tax-deductible and to assure accountability. Debbie was paid a small stipend, and Sunday meals and other goods such as backpacks, socks and personal supplies were donated.
Within several years, Ecclesia Ministries included a full-time paid director/minister, a part-time administrator, a devoted and growing core of volunteers, an advisory board, a budget (run through the Cathedral financial statement), a home office and several ministries. By its tenth year, the staff had expanded to include a minister for common cathedral, an art program coordinator and a Sunday musician. and a grants writer. The organization had attained separate, non-profit status, and was housed in its own office.
A Few Basic Questions about Call, Compassion and Community
As Debbie's story suggests, service with and for others requires considerable self awareness and patience. When we work on others' behalf, it is critical that we remain mindful of our own needs and motives. Without this self understanding, we run the risk of being insensitive to the realities and dignity of others. We also invite fatigue and frustration into our own lives and into the work we share with others.
Ecclesia's theology – as practiced through common cathedral and its other ministries – is based in the belief that we are all made in the image of God. Because of this shared identity, we do God's work when we recognize our sacred relationships with others and offer them the same respect and friendship and encouragement we want for ourselves. Inviting and maintaining those spiritual connections with each other requires us to know the truth about ourselves and to be open to listening to the truth about others.
Our willingness and ability to seek out and maintain these sacred relationships is directly linked to our effectiveness as a ministry. Ecclesia's experience is that trust and hope and vision grow out of the community's capacity to bring people together who are normally separate from each other and to provide a context for meaningful relationship. It is out of these relationships – not out of agendas imposed by individuals or staff or boards – that life-changing energy and action flow.
So the desire and capacity for relationship is critical to this ministry, and, of course, our personal stories affect our willingness and our ability to create and maintain these sacred connections. Here are some question to use as your ongoing guides as you discover your own calling to be in relationship with homeless persons.
Question # 1: Call
Are you willing to be continually mindful of the sources of your own call to serve?
The spark for Ecclesia Ministries was one person's desire to find out what Jesus and the Hebrew prophets meant when they said, "If you want to get close to the heart of God, get close to the poor in your midst." The founder was also clear that she had something in common with street people, particularly their aloneness and alienation from others, and that she had as much to learn on the streets as she did to give. "Doing good" in the spirit of God's love for all must be mutual. In order for it to be mutual, we have to be as aware of our own needs as we are of others'. We have to be as ready to receive from the other as we are to give.
Question #2: Compassion
Are you willing to let compassion for all be your primary spiritual rule?
Ecclesia is a spiritually centered ministry, but the goal is not to create church members or to promote any particular beliefs. The common desire of staff and volunteers is to help relieve suffering and injustice in people and social structures which sometimes defy change. The beginning of that change comes through compassionate relationships, even in the face of unchanging individuals and structures. This is why we have to commit to compassion as our base and our goal. True compassion is as hard to come by as it is to sustain. But it is absolutely necessary if we are to be living examples of the love of God for all.
Question #3: Community
Are you willing to engage in mutual relationship with strangers?
Ecclesia offers and fosters community. This is especially obvious on Boston Common on Sunday afternoon, when common cathedral gathers for worship. Anyone who joins the circle around the altar is considered a full member. By the time lunch is being enjoyed, people from different walks of life have been connected in ways that are both rare and significant. The creation of community through the bringing together of strangers is the heart of our mission. Our belief is that we can move toward a more just and equitable society when we de-emphasize our differences and build on our common experiences and dreams. In order to join this movement, we have to face the inevitable personal challenges that will arise as we learn how to share power and work together for our common good.
A Few Words about Street Worship
Because of the prevalence of fundamentalist street ministries, we want to make it clear that the "good news" of common cathedral is the eternal compassion of God for all people. Saving sinners or pronouncing judgment on certain people is not our mission. Our hope is to offer hospitality to anyone who gathers, and through that hospitality, to let God do the work that only God can do – with and through and for everyone. This approach to church requires that we lay aside our claims about righteousness and open ourselves to being changed by God's desire for us to recognize one another as kin.
Here are some quotes from common cathedral members as they describe their experience of street church.
Common cathedral is a miracle under the blue sky because I wouldn't have gone near a church and this brought me back to God. Billy, street dweller
At common cathedral you're not a commodity. It's not take-a-number. It's a one- to-one, person-to-person contact. It's breaking down barriers and impediments. …When we go through the liturgy and … we start singing "We are Standing on Holy Ground" and I look around that circle of people, and a lot of times I see people that have completely left the shackles of this earth, and in that point you can see it in their faces, in the pleasure they seem to be experiencing, how much of a bond is being formed at that particular point, and it's contagious. I bring some of it, but a lot of it rubs off on me. And I think that's sort of like the kicker for the fellowship and everything we do afterwards. It doesn't dissipate with the psalm or the prayers or the end of the service afterwards. It's something that takes me through the week a lot. Darryl, street dweller
The greatest joy for me is the growing sense of being community, or, as some say, family. As one of our members reminds me, ours is a church of orphans. I think many of us feel we've found a home. Every Sunday is different, and we make our worship out of whoever comes. It's always amazing. I always come off the Common feeling raised up. More and more people come to worship with us from traditional parishes, from schools and youth groups. They tell us their lives are changed. We ask only that they go and tell others what they saw and heard. Debbie, founder
Each street church will develop in its own "personality," and hopefully the leadership, as well as the membership, will be multi-denominational. Many who join the circle, whether for a day on a regular basis, will not claim any kind of religious identity, but will still find themselves drawn to be there. The focus must remain on welcoming anyone who shows interest.
Though each community will express itself in worship in its own unique ways, we see these attributes as fundamental to creating a welcoming worship community:
(1) The theology guiding the worship is grounded in mercy, love and hospitality. Nothing is being "sold" or "forced," and no effort is made to "convert" or "save." The focus is on celebrating the incomprehensible love of God for all people and the sacred connections we enjoy with one another regardless of the details of our lives.
(2) The worship service is offered outdoors, in all weather. Intended for those who dwell on the street, it is critical that the worship stay on the street. By remaining outside, the "doors" to the church remain open to those who, for whatever reason, cannot go indoors.
(3) The liturgy remains the same, with opportunities for member response and participation. The consistency of the order of service and the invitation to participate foster trust and belonging, both of which are essential to create community.
(4) Familiar words and music are used as much as possible. common cathedral regularly uses the Lord's Prayer, the Serenity Prayer, Psalms 23 and a small collection of songs, all of which are practiced before the service.
(5) At the close of the service, some gesture of belonging to community is encouraged. At common cathedral, everyone who wishes holds hands and sings a song, thereby confirming the sacred connection with God and with each other
(6) Street dwelling members are encouraged and helped to play important roles in the preparation of the worship space, the service itself and in the clean up. Eventually they can recruit and train others. Avoid the possibility of letting home-dwellers take over in their zeal to "do something."
In addition to the fundamentals, here are some gestures which we have found essential to our community:
6) Easy to read bulletins are prepared, with the words of the prayers, psalms, songs and responses, for those who can read. This increases participation as well as a sense of identity. Even with the bulletin available, it is critical to lead the worship in a way that allows those without bulletins to follow and participate.
(7) Communion is included in the liturgy. common cathedral uses a simple adaptation of an Episcopal liturgy (though other than Episcopal priests, deacons and Eucharistic ministers serve). The ministers for that day approach anyone who has shown interest in the worship, but in a way that encourages them to receive or not, whichever they choose.
(8) Memorial or prayer services are offered when people die. Street people deal with death on a regular basis. Some die without family. Many mourn without pastoral or liturgical help. common cathedral is ready to offer memorial services and grief support for its members, or for those whom they know.
Examples of liturgies and instruction sheets are included in the resources section. Use them as inspiration and guides, as you begin to imagine and shape your own worship environments and practices.
Once you are ready to begin envisioning a ministry with and for homeless persons, we encourage you to consider these first steps as necessary to any street faith community. Listed with each step you will find some questions and suggestions offered to help you relate the step to your own situation.
Forming relationships on the street
A necessary first step is taken on the streets. Debbie spent over a year getting to know individuals who lived outdoors. With an extra cup of coffee in hand and sometimes a sandwich or snack, she would greet someone and, if invited, she would sit and talk. She listened to their stories and shared her own. When asked, she offered referrals for personal assistance or prayers. Her goal was "to be with," to let genuine trust and connection develop at its own pace.
Where do street people gather in your community? Given who you are and how you relate to people best, how can you imagine initiating a conversation with a stranger living on the street?
Set a reasonable goal for meeting people, based on your available time and the particulars of the street culture where you live.
Keep a personal journal, for your own use only, and jot down names and enough about each person to remember them. Note the needs you observe and the wisdom you receive. Record any ideas that begin to emerge about possible ministries based on the personalities, gifts and needs of those whom you meet.
If it all possible, do this work in the context of a small group of people who are also meeting street persons in their own way and on their own schedule. Meet regularly to offer support, share information and dream about the possibilities.
Making connections with other advocates and service providers
Services for homeless persons are offered in any urban area. Some are spiritually based, and others are offered by secular agencies. You need to know people in both, as you learn what assistance is currently offered and build a network of support for your own work. While Ecclesia's founder was getting to know street people, she was also regularly meeting with shelter workers, health care providers, public officials, emergency responders and church and community advocates for marginalized people. Whatever shape your ministry takes, its strength and effectiveness will depend on how connected it is with others' efforts.
What agencies or organizations or churches serve homeless people in your area? Who are the leaders and advocates for homeless people?
Set up meetings with agency people and advocates to learn about their particular programs. Let one person introduce you or recommend you to another, and be ready to attend open meetings of as many different groups as you can.
Keep notes about contact people and services provided and gather any appropriate referral information to hand out on the street.
Do this work with a few others and meet regularly to compile a data bank of available services and to identify potential allies and connections for your own work.
Discovering your mission
As a spiritually-based ministry, you will begin by developing mutual relationships with street people and with those who serve them. Out of these relationships, ideas for potential ministries will emerge. In Ecclesia's case, one of the early discoveries was the need for pastoral care for the chronically ill and dying homeless and those who serve them. As a result, pastoral care teams were trained to visit people – on the street and in hospital and respite facilities. About the same time, Debbie became aware of the need for a worshiping community without walls, a faith based community for folks who would never enter a church building. Missions are most effective when they are discovered as you increase your awareness through knowing others and your own context. At the back of the manual, you will find descriptions of the ministries that have emerged over the years of Ecclesia's life. Use them as guidelines or inspiration as you imagine what ministries into which you are being called.
Where are the spiritual gaps in the life of the homeless in your area? What kind of spiritual offerings or services aren't available to people living in the street?
As you meet people, pay attention to spiritual needs that aren't being addressed. Where appropriate, ask people what their spiritual needs are.
Take notes about what you learn, particularly with reference to the normal care and programs a church offers which homeless people are not receiving, including scripture study, pastoral care, support groups, service projects, weddings, funerals.
In your small group, begin to imagine what a street faith community would look like, based on the needs you have observed and the gifts you and others bring to the table.
Hopefully you are already part of a group of people who are interested in ministry with and for the homeless. Likely everyone will be a volunteer to begin with, and others will be attracted to the ministry as you proceed. In order to provide encouragement for people's interest and community for those who begin to gather, you cannot rely strictly on informal conversation and meetings to sustain the mission. As Ecclesia began to develop, the founder was the main contact person for people wanting to join the effort. She connected the people drawn to the same ministry and helped them make decisions about appropriate training and support. The heart of the ministry is community, and healthy community is made of people who are known for who they are and assisted to be the people they are called to be.
How can you make it easy for potential volunteers to express their interest and find a place in the ministry? How can you set up training and support opportunities for new and experienced volunteers?
In the beginning, consider one person as the contact person for potential volunteers. The role of that person will be to stay in communication with volunteers, to make sure they know when things are happening and how they might be helpful, and to help make decisions about training and support.
Provide regular forums for volunteers to share their stories and offer suggestions about the ministry. This is likely the best way to consistently check in with volunteers, both to see what they need in the way of support but also to allow them to become part of the planning of the developing ministry.
As ministries develop, keep a growing list of roles that volunteers can play, along with brief job descriptions, training opportunities and contact people. Volunteers functions best with information about how they can fit in and instructions on how to proceed and whom to contact.
Developing the organization
Most people who are drawn to ministry are not organizational enthusiasts. But the truth of any group of people is that they are more effective when simple, orderly processes are developed to support the work.
In the beginning, informal relationships and coincidental meetings will serve you well. However, once folks who are not a part of the first steps begin to join the circle, some kind of structure will be necessary to welcome and incorporate them. Once you are doing more than one thing, some kind of ordering of who does what and how will actually leave more time for ministry. When common cathedral started, the founder carried the responsibility for set up and liturgy and meals. Within months, she identified certain people to lead in particular activity areas, which created a more effective, though still loosely organized, system which made it easier for people to enter the circle and participate.
Here are some areas you need to consider as you begin to develop your organization:
At common cathedral, anyone who worships is considered a member. The only exclusionary rule is that physical aggression is not permitted. Since the goal is to provide a safe place for people on the streets, every effort is made to protect members from harm. Because this is an "ethic" of the community, there is rarely a problem.
Within Ecclesia ministries, every effort is made to engage volunteers who are interested in serving. The only road block is a volunteer's unwillingness to participate in training or ongoing support gatherings. Often volunteers gravitate toward common cathedral as their church, or as a second spiritual home. Though they are considered members like any one else, the goal is avoid letting their presence overwhelm the presence of street people.
Ecclesia has found that offering members and volunteers a symbol of belonging is very meaningful. As you walk around Boston, you will see people wearing a distinctive cross designed for common cathedral and given to all members. It is a comfort to those who wear it and a sign to street workers and city officials of the person's affiliation with the church.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about membership in your ministry:
What constitutes membership in our ministry? Do we want some sign of commitment, and if so, what are those signs? Are we willing to consider everyone a member, and if so, are there guidelines or rules that we want to observe in order to promote safety and openness among those who gather at any given time? How will these guidelines or rules be communicated and maintained?
What place in the ministry do volunteers have? What can they expect in the way of benefits and responsibilities? What can we do to ensure that the needs and gifts of the homeless population stay at the heart of who were are?
Do we want a symbol of belonging for our ministry? What would it be? Who would receive it? How would it be funded?
Founders of ministries are automatically cast in a leadership role. As the ministry grows, other leadership needs will emerge. Each organization will seek its own style and pattern of leadership, but here are some standard questions to ask as you find your own way:
Given what our tasks are, what are our leadership needs? Who has the gifts, energy and time to fill those particular needs? What kind of training and support is needed to help that person do the job?
What can we do to ensure communication and cooperation among leaders? Given who we are, what is going to work best to get us together: regular meetings, conference calls, scheduled instant messaging, etc.?
How can we build into our work a regular assessment of how our leadership team is functioning and make necessary adjustments and changes? Who can help us with this kind of objective review work and when will we do it?
As you imagine who might serve as a leader, here are some attributes to consider. None of us would receive a perfect rating in any of these categories. In fact, we are likely drawn to the work because we need to grow in these areas. This is why "willing" is the operative word. "Willingness" indicates a desire to move in a certain direction and to commit to doing whatever personal work is required.
Is the person willing to work with others and share power and responsibility?
Does the person's spiritual belief encourage willingness to respect the dignity of
others and to work for their wellbeing, regardless of their spiritual beliefs?
Is the person willing to commit to self-awareness and to receiving constructive
criticism from others?
Is the person willing to seek help when it is needed?
The more people know, the more connected and engaged they will be. In the beginning, informal communication links will suffice. At a certain point, even at the earliest stages, keeping everyone in the loop will involve effort and planning.
Communication in a ministry with and for homeless bears a particular challenge, since the normal links are not accessible. With people living in homes, the channels are obvious: e-mail, phone, mail, meetings. With people living on the street, it is imperative that certain activities happen at the same time and at the same place, without exception. Having a regularly scheduled gathering time increases the chance of street members' staying in the information and conversation loop. It also builds trust and faith in the community.
Eventually you will want to provide communication to the larger community about what you are doing. This will be necessary in order to get the word out and to raise support for the ministry. Using both secular and spiritual information systems will cast the widest net.
Consider these questions as you wonder how communication will work in your setting:
Who will be in charge of communicating necessary information to those with computers and phones? Do we want a website? A newsletter? A street hand out?
Given our population and geography, what can we commit to in the way of a regular, no-excuses-allowed meeting time and place? Who do we have to contact to get permission to use that space, if applicable? How do we need to structure ourselves in order to assure follow through of that commitment?
At what point do we want to communicate through the media and other information networks (such as church newsletters and websites) about the ministry? Who are our contacts, and who will serve as our information person?
No one should go into this work expecting to make a living. Serving the poor is never a money-making mission. It is hard to raise money for the work, and there are never enough resources to do the work. Having said that, it is also true that very effective ministry can be accomplished with very little money. Plus, there are some very generous people and funding sources who want to encourage ministry with people living on the margins.
Ecclesia was originally funded by the founder's ordination offering and several small grants. Then she began preaching regularly at area churches and using that money for the ministry as well. Eventually enough contributions were coming in that a line item was set up in the Cathedral's budget, to provide for accountability and the opportunity for tax-deductions. Now Ecclesia is a non-profit organization with its own budget, funded by numerous grants as well as individual contributions.
Expect to grow in increments when it comes to money, and be ready to spend time raising it. Set up guidelines for sound financial accountability, as well as for how contributions are acknowledged. As soon as possible, find some way for contributors to make their contributions tax deductible. But never let money be your guide to what is possible.
Here are some questions to ask as you plan your financial operation:
What are the costs of what we want to do? What would a simple, six-month or one-year budget look like? What is the least we need and the most we could use?
What resources do we have among us? What money do we have to give, and what kind of time commitment can we make given the other demands in our lives?
What are potential funding sources – individuals and churches/organizations - to make up the difference? How will we solicit funds? How will we express our appreciation for gifts given?
How will we "keep" and monitor our money? Is there a church or other non- profit organization that would allow us to operate through their financial reporting system? If not, is there a bank that offers free accounts? Who has responsibility for the money? Who makes decisions about how it is spent? How and when and to whom do we make financial reports?
Sometime early on it will be helpful to gather a few people together who are not members of the leadership team but who do have a passion for the work. Their role would be to meet with the leadership on an agreed upon basis, and to serve as a sounding board and agent of accountability. The clearer their role, the better they can serve you. Meetings could include prepared reports on the current ministry, along with any challenges being faced and new ideas that are being considered.
Depending on how you configure yourself, a board might be required due to state or federal regulations. There are many resources on board development and guidelines, so we do not cover that here. What we do recommend is that you are careful to choose board members who are committed to the work you are doing and are prepared to communicate in their worlds about the ministry and to raise money from the connections they have.
Before you call together any kind of advisory group, ask these questions:
Who will be the main contact for the advisors? Who will choose them, and how will communication be maintained with them?
Who do we know among us who supports – or would support – the kind of ministry we are developing? How can we select as broad a base of people as possible without losing our focus and basic commitment to be with and for homeless persons?
What, exactly, do we want from this group of advisors. (If choosing a board, their role is spelled out by law.) How often will they meet and with whom? What specific things are we asking them to do? What kind of time commitment are we asking them to make? How long will they serve?
Do we need to have any kind of orientation or training with the advisors? How can we educate them about who we are?
One of the ongoing challenges for people engaged in ministry with and for homeless people is to guard against burn-out and despair. The work is demanding and is never completed. The issuesare chronic and severe. Our own internal conflicts and struggles emerge as we persevere, and our faith can be challenged. So it is critical that everyone involved – leaders and volunteers – assume responsibility for their own well being.
Assistance can be sought from a variety of sources: our faith communities, spiritual directors, therapists, recovery groups, support groups, pastors, truthful friends. In order for assistance to be offered, though, it has to be sought. Signs that you need some help include these: Chronic irritation or anger with a particular person or situation; extended anxiety or sleeplessness due to thoughts and feelings about some aspect of your work; unexplainable outbursts with friends or associates; a growing sense of despair or depression about the goodness of people.
People of faith often have spiritual practices which provide them with refreshment and hope. Prayer, meditation, retreat time, study, worship – these are some of the ways in which religious organizations support their members in their work in the world. If you belong to a community of faith, make sure you know about your own spiritual practices and seek assistance in finding the ones that nourish you.
Another way to take care of ourselves is to be realistic about what we can accomplish, and to communicate with others about what we hope to do and how well we think we are accomplishing our goals. One way your organization can help people take care of themselves is to provide contexts in which people can create informal job descriptions or ministry plans and then review and revise them as needed.
Here are some questions to ask yourself – without ceasing – in the company of others:
What stresses me out the most about this work? Are there certain situations which always do me in? Am I noticing any quick or habitual responses in myself that do not seem to let up with time? What signs do I show of increased stress, and how can I ask others to help me watch for those signs?
What is helpful to me in relieving stress and shoring up my faith? Am I engaging in those practices or helps?
Do the people I live with or worship with or spend free time with know what I am doing and how they could support me in this ministry?
Out of the experience of common cathedral and the relationships that have formed through the street community, other ministries have developed. Some are part of the Sunday experiences. Others function during the week. Below you'll find a brief description of other ministries, offered as a way of showing you what is possible.
The Sunday Music Program
Music is an important part of the Sunday liturgy. A staff musician leads the music, using his banjo or mandolin to accompany the singing. All words are printed, and if new songs are used, the musician practices with people before the service. Most of the music is fixed, but new music is introduced from time to time.
The Sunday Gospel Reflection
After worship and lunch on Sundays, people gather nearby in a semi-circle and introduce themselves by first name. A prayer is offered, and the scripture used in worship is read aloud. People are invited to talk about what the gospel is saying to them, with a facilitator ensuring that those who wish have a chance to speak. The lesson is read again, followed by a group discussion. Sometimes a psalm is read, with different people reading each verse, and the gathering is closed with the Serenity Prayer.
The Pastoral Care Ministry
This ministry provides pastoral care and spiritual support to the patients, staff and volunteers of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. Volunteer teams are trained and supported to visit with patients in the hospital and at McInnis House and to do follow-up visits in shelters and on the street. Opportunities are also offered to health care staff to engage in spiritual reflection and education, as requested. Through this ministry, someone connected with common cathedral can expect the same pastoral care any church member might expect, though volunteers meet with anyone in need.
CityReach is an overnight urban outreach program for high school and college student and adults. Guided by homeless members of common cathedral, participants learn about life on the streets. Using gifts they bring with them, they offer a simple meal and clothing to street people both on site and at other sites in the city where homeless people gather. The session closes with reflection on what people have learned, and those representing church groups are encouraged to share their experience with their churches the next day.
Once a week, a movie is shown in a known place at the same time. Facilitators choose a movie that they think people will enjoy, and they bring soda and chips or popcorn for people to enjoy.
Common Art provides space, materials and caring support for homeless people to develop and express their artistic abilities. Members gather every Wednesday at a local church to draw, paint, sculpt, make crafts and to share with others in their creative efforts. For most participants, Common Art is a singular chance to express their gifts. For some, art is a professional path, interrupted by homelessness. For others, it is an opportunity to express ideas and truths. For everyone, it is a relief from daily difficulty. Common Art members exhibit their work in Boston's art and faith communities, including an exhibition staged at the Massachusetts State House in March 2003.
The Recovery Group
Though not an official AA meeting, the Recovery Group uses 12-step principlesinaddition to biblical readings on healing and wholeness. The tools that are usedare the Life Recovery Bible, the Twelve Steps of AA and cookies and soda. People still struggling with active addictions are welcomed, as well as those in recovery.
The Mission Project
This newest ministry is the dream of the founder of common cathedral and Ecclesia. Within the earliest months of common cathedral, visitors expressed interest in starting similar outdoor churches in their own cities. The request for support and mentoring grew to the extent that Debbie sought and received Ford Foundation funding to raise up and support leadership for new street churches in other settings. The project includes visits from Debbie for training and encouragement; a "come and see" weekend, where new street church leaders experience common cathedral and other ministries first hand; small start-up grants for new initiatives; and this publication – Street Church, which is for anyone's use.
Go and tell them what you've seen and heard….
This sketch of common cathedral and collection of questions and suggestions is offered to anyone who is exploring a call to ministry on the street. Written for those early in the journey, Street Church is not a set of how-to instructions. Nor does it attempt to give a full account of the history and identity of Ecclesia Ministries. What is included here is enough information – and hopefully inspiration – to help you in your discernment process and to guide you through some first steps. What we imagine is that once you get started, your own identity and mission will take shape according to your own gifts and needs.
Blessings to you as you follow your path, and be in touch if you need encouragement, mentoring or support.
common cathedral Liturgy
Holy eucharist and community gathering:
Every Sunday at 1 p.m.
Liturgy For Celebrating the Eucharist
All are welcome to join and participate fully in this worship. Our liturgy is adapted from the worship Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal church. common cathedral is a eucharistic community centered in God and Jesus Christ.
• All are welcome to join in our "choir" and "orchestra" and musicians are urged to bring their instruments.
• Prayers and hymns are found on the service sheet.
We open with the singing of Kumbaya (Come By Here) which often brings curious stares and pointed camera's from tourists, and some of those seated around the fountain move a little closer, not ready to join us but interested in what we are about.
Loving God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and ever praise your holy Name; through Christ our Savior. AMEN
Prayer for Reconciliation
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Oh God, you are my shepherd.
I shall not want.
You make me lie down in green pastures.
You lead me beside still waters.
You restore my soul.
You lead me in the paths of righteousness
for your name's sake.
El senor es mi pastor,
nada me falta,
En verdes pastos el me hace reposary
adonde brota agua fresca me conduce.
Fortalece mi alma,
por el camino del bien mi dirige
por amor de su nombre.
Though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death
I fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life
And I will dwell in your house forever.
Aunque pase por quebradas
muy oscuras no temo ningun mal,
porque tu estas conmigo,
tu baston y tu vara me protegen.
Me sirves a la mesa
frente a mis adversarios,
con aceites tu perfumas mi cabeza
y rellenas mi copa.
Me acompana tu bondad y tu favor
mientras dura me vida,
mi mansion sera la casa del Senor por
largo, largo tiempo.
O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: When I call, answer me. O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: Come and listen to me. (Taize)
We are standing on holy ground and I know that there are angels all around. Let us praise Jesus now. We are standing in God's presence on holy ground.
Celebration of the Eucharist
(Eucharistic prayer offered by the celebrant)
Christ is with us.
Let us open our hearts to God and to one another.
Let us give thanks to God with joy.
Most generous, self giving God,
we celebrate your gift of creation,
and we thank you for your constant love for all you have made.
Your breath gives us life; you call us into new life.
You did not reject us when we rejected you,
but you delivered us from separation and death
to a joyful life in communion with you and all your creatures.
Out of your desire to draw us into your infinite love,
Jesus was born into the human family
and remained with people who were outcast.
He walks today among us.
He touches us with your love.
He gave himself freely to life, and triumphed over evil.
He restores us to life by refusing to abandon us
and remaining faithful to You and to us.
On the night before he died,
Jesus was at table with his friends.
He took bread, and when he had given thanks to You,
he broke it, gave it to them and said,
"Take, eat: This is my Body which is broken for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me."
After supper Jesus took the cup
and gave it to his friends, saying,
"Drink this all of you. This cup is the new covenant
in my blood, poured out for you and for all.
As often as you drink this, remember me."
Remembering Christ's life and death,
proclaiming Christ's resurrection,
awaiting Christ's coming in glory,
we offer you ourselves in praise and thanksgiving.
Celebrating your boundless love for us in Jesus Christ,
we offer you these gifts.
Bless them by your Holy Spirit
that they may be for us the holy food and drink
of new and unending life in Christ.
Pour your Spirit on us,
that we may know Christ in the breaking of bread, and that
in word and deed we may be bearers of your love, peace,
and justice in the world.
At the end of this life, unite us with all your saints,
past, present and yet to come, in life everlasting,
that we may praise your Name forever.
All praise to you Eternal God, in Jesus Christ,
who lives among us,
and the Holy Spirit who binds us together in love.
Everyone say, AMEN!
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be
thy name; Thy kingdom come, thy will be
done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this
day our daily bread; And forgive us our
trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass
against us; And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil, for thine is the
kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever
and ever. Amen.
Padre nuestro que estas en el cielo,
sanctificado sea tu nombre; Venga a
nosotros tu reino; hagase tu voluntad, en la
tierra, como en el cielo. Danos hoy nuestro
pan de cada dia; Perdona nuestras ofensas,
como tambien nosotros perdonamos a los
que nos ofenden; no nos dejes caer en la
tentacion, y libranos del mal. Tuyo es el
reino, tuyo el poder y la gloria, por siempre,
(Break the Bread)
(Hold up the elements)
The gifts of God for the people of God.
(Distribution of elements followed by the Prayer of Thanksgiving)
Holy, gracious and loving God, you have drawn us to your
heart, and nourished us at your table with holy food and drink,
the body and Blood of Christ.
Eat this bread; Jesus remember me
Just a closer walk with thee
Refrain: Just a closer walk with thee. Grant it, Jesus, is my plea.
Daily walking close to thee, let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
1. I am weak but thou art strong; Jesus keep me from all wrong;
I'll be satisfied as long as I walk, let me walk close to thee.
2. Through this world of toil and snares, if I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares? None but thee, dear Lord, none but thee.
3. When my feeble life is o'er, time for me will be no more.
Guide me safely, gently o'er to the kingdom shore, to thy shore.
Precious Lord Take My Hand
Precious Lord take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious
Lord, lead me on.
When my way grows drear, precious Lord, linger near, when my life is almost gone;
hear my cry, hear my call, hold my hand lest I fall, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me
When the darkness appears, and the night draws near, and the day is past and gone,
at the river I stand, guide my feet, hold my hand, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me
Guide My Feet Lord
1. Guide my feet Lord, while I run this race,(repeat twice);
'Cause I don't want to run this race alone.
2. Hold my hand Lord, while I run this race, (repeat twice);
'Cause I don't want to run this race alone.
3. Stand by me Lord, while I run this race, (repeat twice);
'Cause I don't want to run this race alone.
Seek Ye First
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and God's righteousness,
and all these things will be added unto you;
Allelu, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Allelu, alleluia!
Ask, and it shall be given unto you, seek, and ye shall find,
knock, and the door will be opened unto you;
Allelu, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Allelu, alleluia!
We do not live by bread alone, but by every word
that proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu, Alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Allelu, alleluia!
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, that saved someone like me!
I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see.
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.
The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come;
'tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun.
Benediction and Dismissal
Now send us forth to be your people in the world,
and to proclaim your truth, this day and evermore.
Partners-in-Ministry Information 2009a
Welcome and Thank You for your commitment to Ecclesia Ministries common cathedral!
Thank you for partnering with Ecclesia Ministries common cathedral to bring hope, love and Christian community to people experiencing homelessness in Boston. The most important things you have to offer are yourselves. The fact that you are willing to spend a Sunday coming to Boston to be with people whose lives are in disarray is an incredible blessing to us. Your witness to us is that the members of our congregation are worth your time and effort; that they are loved – by you and by God. You are witnesses of God’s love to us. Thank you!
That said, we are confident that your group will also gain something from the experience of worshiping with us. Anytime we step outside our comfort zone, and take a risk to just be with people who are different from ourselves, we can’t help but be changed by the experience. So, we look forward to hosting you in our church – common cathedral. You can hear from this introduction that our emphasis is on your congregation and ours being the Body of Christ together. We will host your group for a feast of Scripture and a sacramental meal that nourishes all our souls; THEN, your group will host us for a meal that nourishes our bodies. We look forward to sharing both of those meals with you.
Group leaders, please help your congregation to understand ahead of time that you are not traveling to Boston to “help” the homeless. You are traveling to Boston to join in our worship service, and to be in community with us, as fellow pilgrims on the journey. You may wish to print out some of the material on our website (www.ecclesia-ministries.org) to distribute to your group so that they will have a better idea of what they are entering into.
As part of your commitment to partner with Ecclesia Ministries, we ask you to speak with your Pastor, Missions/Social Justice/Outreach Committee about making a substantial donation to Ecclesia Ministries. We have discussed the possibility of charging a fee to congregations that visit common cathedral, and have decided not to institute such a fee at this time. While the food that you bring on Sundays feeds our congregation for the day, the organization is completely dependent upon the generosity of individuals and congregations like yours to continue our ministry of Christian community and spiritual support throughout the week. We have a budget of approximately $240,000 per year that is not supported by any denominational entity. As a result, we are constantly asking for donations to keep us ministering on the streets of Boston. An annual commitment of $1,000 to $5,000 from your congregation would allow us to focus more of our energy on ministry, and less on fundraising.
The schedule for the day:
12:15-12:30pm unload (we'll help) at the curb near Brewer fountain, across from St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral 138 Tremont Street, then park your car. (If precipitation is severe, you may find us on the porch of St. Paul’s)
12:30 – One of our ministers will give an orientation to the entire visiting group (yours and possibly another – the total should never exceed 20 people)
12:35 till 1pm-Your group has an opportunity to mingle with the common cathedral
1pm – The bells of Park Street church ring and worship begins - gather in a circle
2ish – After the final blessing and dismissal, lunch is served, then cleaned-up
2:30ish – One of our ministers will lead reflection with the entire visiting group
3pm - You're on your way home
The Boston Common Garage is on Charles Street (R on Boylston; R on Charles from the drop-off point) where on Sundays the flat rate is $11 (this garage does not accommodate anything taller than a mini-van). We have discount stickers available for $5.50 during the reflection time. For other parking options, take a left off Tremont, just after the Boylston St. intersection, onto La Grange St. which will lead you to 2 uncovered parking lots. The one on the right (FitzInn) may be cheaper.
Please keep your personal belongings on you at all times, or leave everything out of sight in your locked cars. We suggest you wear a backpack or fanny pack so your hands are free. The best solution is not to bring anything valuable with you.
Limiting the Size of Groups
We welcome everyone at our worship service. However, if there are more than a few in your group, we ask you to schedule your visit through our office at 617-247-4927 or firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s important that we have no more than 20 people from other worshipping communities or schools on a given Sunday, as our congregation tends to feel overwhelmed, and they tend to back away. This is not fair to them to feel uncomfortable or even marginalized in their own church, nor does it give our partners an accurate picture of what common cathedral is really like. Please understand if, for the sake of striking the right balance, we need to schedule your group many months in advance. In the same spirit, we ask you not to take pictures while you are participating with us, as it can be disruptive to the liturgy, and some in our congregation consider it an invasion of their privacy.
Worship Tradition and Style
The common cathedral service is a Christian Eucharist (Communion service), loosely based on the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, but definitely Ecumenical. Our ministers, volunteers and congregation come from many traditions. We welcome people of all faiths who feel called to be with us, wherever you are on your spiritual journey, and to participate as fully as you are able in the prayers, singing, Gospel reflection, and in receiving Communion. Please see our liturgy on the website.
We recognize that Communion may be an unfamiliar practice for some groups. We come through the crowd offering a piece of consecrated bread (the body of Christ) and a cup of consecrated grape juice (the blood of Christ). If you would like to partake, just hold your hand out, palm up, and the Minister will serve you. You may eat the bread right away. Take the offered cup as well. Someone will come along and collect the empties. If you prefer not to receive, just don’t put out your hand. We invite anyone who wants to receive Communion to partake, but realize that different churches have different practices, so please go with whatever feels most comfortable to you.
If members of your group sing or play instruments, and would like to offer something special to our service, or if you would like to offer the Prayers of the People, or have some other way in which you contribute to services in your own church, please let us know and we’ll be happy to incorporate into our worship, with a little advance planning.
Preparing for Your Visit:
You may wish to invite one of our ministers to preach in your congregation and/or to speak with a youth group or adult discussion group preceding your visit, or even as a follow-up to your visit.
While you’re together making sandwiches, or on the drive to the Common, it’s helpful for group leaders to ask members about their hopes/fears/expectations about participating at common cathedral, especially if this is their first visit. This will be a jumping off place for our reflection time afterward. It’s also great if you can practice singing Kumbaya, We Shall Overcome, and some of our other service music, so that you can more fully participate in worship with us. Within a week or two before your visit, Kathy will call or email you to check in and see if you have any questions. If you have any problems on the way to the Common and know that you are going to be late or that you won’t arrive at all, please call our Executive Director, the Rev. Kathy McAdams, on her cell phone 617-347-8582.
Reflecting on Your Visit:
We invite you to stay for a short reflection time after you’re done serving and cleaning up, to make your experience with us richer and more complete. We will talk about whether your hopes/fears/expectations were realized, and explore what you learned about God, about yourself, and about homelessness, and about how your visit will inform your faith. It’s a great idea for leaders to continue this reflection at their next group meeting, as it may take a while for your experience to be digested.
Following Your Visit:
Please complete the Partner Response Form at the back of this packet and mail/email it to our office. In addition to continuing to talk about your visit to common cathedral, and planning to come back again next year, we encourage you to explore homelessness in your own community. How many homeless people are there just around the corner from you? What are conditions like for them? What are their needs? How might you be involved with them?
Think about how you might be an advocate for homeless people with your state and local
government. Organize a fundraising and/or educational event in your community. Invite members of common cathedral to join your congregation for an outing or other fun occasion (St. John’s Episcopal Church in Westwood hosts a picnic for us every year at Hale Reservation, and invites us to join their youth group for bowling each Spring). Check out our website www.ecclesia-ministries.org for other ideas about how you can continue to help Ecclesia Ministries.
The minute we have received the Blessing and Dismissal, the circle we’ve been standing breaks, and a line forms for lunch. Wheel the food cart over so that it is next to the altar and set up as quickly as possible. Some of your group can bring whatever you need over to the altar and cart, while some stand behind the altar and cart, ready to serve up the food.
Servers stand with their backs to the fountain. Still others can help the line form, then serve individual extras such as fruit, eggs, chips or cookies along the waiting line, leaving only sandwiches and soup/hot food to be served off the tabletops. This keeps things moving along, and it is also a way for your group to interact with members of common cathedral. Drinks stay on a card table where they are set up before the service. If you like, you may assign a couple of people to serve drinks. Birthday cake is served from a bench at the fountain, behind the altar. One person can cut it into 2” squares, and another can serve it on napkins. Both of these people should wear latex or vinyl gloves. Naturally we will help in any way we can, but if you and other group leaders have a game plan in advance, you’ll be set to go that much more quickly.
Recommended Food and Supplies
Like many organizations in this difficult economy, Ecclesia Ministries is experiencing some financial difficulty. In addition to giving up our office, we have had to freeze our spending on supplies for our common art, common cinema, Street Ministry and other programs. For that reason, we’d like you to consider providing a more simple lunch than usual (sandwiches, cake and one other item), and bringing some of the supplies we need for these programs.
Lunch Shopping List:
Makings for 150 sandwiches and/or hot food if you choose
Chips, hardboiled eggs, soft fruit, cookies, etc. (optional)
1 half-sheet birthday cake
1 large container of powdered lemonade, Kool-Aid or iced-tea in warm weather
OR 1 large tin of instant hot cocoa in cold weather
200 cold paper cups (during hot weather) OR 100 hot cups (cold weather)
1 package of 100 napkins
1 gallon of grape juice for Communion
a few plastic shopping bags to stash sticky stuff in, a utensil for serving the cake.
Program Supplies Needed:
1 box of soft (NutriGrain) cereal bars to be used in Street Ministry
White socks (warm weather) or warm wool socks (cold weather) for Street Ministry
Extra hot and cold cups for common art and common cinema
Extra napkins for common art and common cinema
Extra powdered drink mix for common art
2 L bottles of soda for common cinema
Microwave popcorn for common cinema
Small paper plates for common art
Coffee for common art
Sugar and sugar-substitute for common art
Peanut butter and jelly for common art
Gift certificates to Dick Blick Art Supplies (www.dickblick.com)
or Utrecht Art supplies (www.utrechtart.com)
Acrylic Paints (all colors welcome)
Canvas boards or stretched canvases (all sizes)
Old paintings that we can paint over
Costume jewelry and beaded Jewelry (that we take apart and make into new jewelry)
Pencil sharpeners, masking tape, rulers, and other assorted art-making supplies (used OK)
Model-making kits (kits for making miniature cars, planes, trains…)
Food: We welcome a variety of sandwiches: cold cuts, cheese, tuna, egg salad, along with our staple peanut butter and jelly. Please make up the sandwiches in advance and put them in individual baggies. Also it is helpful to have no more than 2-3 types, and to have them separated, so that when you are serving you can find what someone wants quickly.
Potato chips, boiled eggs, soft fruit, carrot sticks, cookies, brownies, etc. are great additions but not expected (be mindful that some people do not have teeth, so please bring healthy but easily chewed items). These are best served in individual baggies, made up in advance. This helps keep the line moving, and is also more sanitary.
We welcome hot food, too, especially when it is cold - soup, pasta, hot dogs or whatever is easy to make for large quantities and easy serving. Bringing hot items in temperature-retaining containers has worked well for most groups in the past.
Numbers: We are currently feeding over 100 people (150+ sandwiches), plus your group, so base amounts on that. Our numbers are variable, depending on weather, temperature and how far into the month we are (we usually have higher numbers as the month progresses, and when the weather is milder).
Birthdays: We celebrate birthdays every week for community members and ask that groups provide a 1/2 sheet cake for this purpose. Supermarket cakes are fine. Homemade cakes are of course always appreciated too! We sing Happy Birthday during announcements.
Preparation/Serving: Hot chocolate, ice tea, lemonade and water (depending on the weather), and cups are available before the service on a card table. (Your hot or cold drink mix will be used the following week, as these drinks have to be made up before the partner groups arrive.)
Immediately after the Blessing and Dismissal, lunch begins. Bring the food cart over to the altar – together, they form one long serving table. Please offer people one sandwich at a time. They are free to come back through the line for seconds, thirds, etc.
Clean Up: Once all are fed (including your group), your help with cleaning up is hugely appreciated. There will be plenty of interns, volunteer staff and helpful community members to tell you what to do. Please plan to take any left-overs with you. Because common cathedral doesn’t have a building, and therefore is short on storage space, food left with us will most likely go to waste. We would prefer that you use it for something at your own church, or donate it to a homeless shelter in your community.
Donations to common cathedral
Financial: Ecclesia Ministries / common cathedral is not a line item in the budget of any denominational entity. We are a not-for-profit Ecumenical ministry, and are supported 44% by individual donors of faith, 24% by supporting congregations of various denominations, and 22% by grants from foundations. We ask that you and your congregation consider including Ecclesia Ministries in your annual giving.
Clothing: Please DO NOT bring clothing with you on Sundays. This is a new procedure and we recognize that it might cause some inconvenience to your group. We love to receive your donations, but on Sundays there is plenty to focus on with worship and lunch. To distribute clothing at the same time can become chaotic.
EXCEPTION: In cold weather a few hats, gloves, chemical hand-warmers, and winter coats/jackets may be brought directly to the Common on Sundays.
For all other items, we prefer for you to call our clothing volunteers - Don and Janet Conner (508) 651-7949 - who will arrange to receive them from you. Don and Janet distribute clothing in an orderly manner twice per month at the Monday lunch at St. Paul’s Cathedral. They sort and store the clothing until it’s needed, and transport it to the Cathedral.
NO CHILDREN’S CLOTHING, NO DRESS CLOTHING - JUST SURVIVAL WEAR.
Any other clothing may be donated to Goodwill (617 445-1010) or Big Brothers/Big Sisters (617-773-2222). The population we serve is approximately 90% male so please prioritize male clothing in the items listed below.
From October through March we can use warm coats. Parkas are the most useful. (N0 WOOL DRESS COATS) Heavy pants and jeans, heavy shoes, sneakers and boots in good condition (NO DRESS SHOES OR HEELS). Heavyweight long sleeved shirts and sweats. Hooded sweatshirts are especially appreciated.
April through September we can use raingear - jackets and pants and ponchos - as well as shorts, tee shirts, baseball caps. We can’t accept and store clothing out of season due to lack of storage space.
We can always use new white socks and men’s and women’s underwear (including long underwear in winter) and tees for distribution during the week in street ministry. Toiletries such as small toothpaste’s, tooth brushes, small bottles of shampoo, deodorant, razors, soap, sun block, and Chapstick are also appreciated.
Carrying bags such as totes, duffels and backpacks are prized. Small suitcases with wheels are also great. We do get a few requests for sleeping bags, but not many for blankets.
In sunny weather, sun protection. In winter, chemical throwaway hand-warmers, individual packets of instant soup and cocoa for people to put in their pockets and take away with them.
common cathedral – Partner-in-Ministry Response Form
Did you have enough information about worship, food, and clothing at common cathedral in advance? If not, what would have been helpful to know ahead of time?
Did you feel welcomed into our community? If not, what would have made you feel more included?
Were you an observer or a participant in the worship of common cathedral?
If an observer, what might have drawn you into the worship better?
How could common cathedral welcome and include our partners in ways that we are not doing presently?
Did your experience at common cathedral raise questions - relating to faith practices, social justice, homelessness - that you would like to follow up on, and might members of our community be of service in exploring those questions with you?
Please let us know anything you’d like to tell us about your visit to common cathedral.