Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Our Next Training for Crises Line Counselors is coming soon!

Did you know that the San Francisco Night Ministry is not limited to the ministers who walk the streets every night? A vital piece of our outreach is our dedicated band of Crises Line Counselors (CLCs). We have one or two CLC’s on each night from 9:45p.m. until 2:15a.m. They answer calls and deal with many of the same issues we Night Ministers deal with on the street; offering compassionate, non-judgmental listening, share resources and offer referrals. All of which are needed and valued as much by our many callers as the presence we Night Minsters offer on the street is by the people we encounter there. The CLCs also occasionally arrange for a Night Minister to meet with someone in crises. We ministers would truly hate the occasional night when there is no CLC scheduled.

Because we love our CLC’s we treat them well. We offer excellent training when new CLC’s come on board, and ongoing continuing education. The location of our office is not made public and we always walk our CLC’s to their car or give them a ride home at the end of the evening.

We know that not everyone is up to this kind of work or the hours entailed (though most of our CLCs work only once a month), but we deeply appreciate those special people willing to take on this important calling. If you think you may be up to serving in this valuable way, come learn more at our next Inquirers’ Evening on September 13th. For the location, time and other information, please contact Brother Jude, our Crisis Line Counselor Coordinator at 415-861-7951 or judehillssf@aol.com.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

SF CARE Sock Drive a Success

SF CARE Sock Drive a Success

This is not a post about numbers, because that’s my least favorite way to measure success.

I didn’t count how many people came to the SF CARE Kick Off and Sock Drive. I can tell you we had a pretty steady flow of a few at a time. I can tell you Tree and Jordan and Dan and Lyle and Megan and I had a good time talking with them. I can tell you people enjoyed the food and loved exploring the Free Farm. I can tell you we had a fair few people sign up to be on our mailing list. (Ok, I have a hard number there, but this is not a post about numbers.)

I didn’t count how many socks we received. I can tell you people were very generous and also actually listened to the part about bringing white athletic socks. We didn’t get any other kind. I can tell you they filled half of one of those huge boxes the army blankets come in.

I can tell you so many people stopped by to ask about what was going on while I was setting up that I was half an hour late getting lunch going (even though I’d budgeted some time to talk to folks who came by while I was setting up).

While I was finishing the clean up another couple stopped by to have a look at the Farm and I gave them the balloons I was taking down off the gate to give to their son. Lyle had taken the other balloons already and they ended up going to the Friendship Banquet on Tuesday. (Dollar Tree is the place to go if you want helium balloons that will last a while.)

We had plenty of leftovers to feed the folks at Night Ministry's Tuesday night community gathering, too.

We publicized the Free Farm and SF CARE a bit. We gathered a lot of socks, and had balloons and food to share. We had a good time. One doesn’t need numbers to call that a success.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dispatch from Open Cathedral - Mission

Open Cathedral Mission re-launched this month after a brief hiatus. Here is deacon Vicki's account of the first Open Cathedral in the Mission last May.

It was 5:30 Thursday, May 12… bright and sunny. Ron, our usher emeritus, was waiting as Monique and I arrived at the BART at 16th and Mission. So was an eclectic crowd – black, white, and brown; old and, mostly, young; speaking English and, mostly, Spanish; some busily hurrying on, some lolling about on the metal benches and circular stone stoop around the station entrance. We knew all would be well, for Moses was there to welcome us, too. After we told him what we were about, he promised to return and, indeed, dropped in – and, out – at various times during the service.

To be sure, most kept their distance, only a few, it seemed, listening at all…except, that is, for Mark, a young – and big – African American who listened intently and with growing curiosity, as I read the Psalm and, then, Gospel in my deep voice which startles some. As Monique began to preach – to no one, it seemed - he began to wave the service sheet and shout about sin and hell. I went to quiet him down and received instead a sermon about Leviticus…about how I “should not lie down with other men,” about how “you know what you are” and, “if you don’t change, you’ll burn in hell.”

Putting down the microphone for the moment, Monique joined us. Mark explained how his life had been a mess and turned around at some local evangelical church where – not his words – he learned to fear God, to be judged, and to judge. Monique, in turn, explained our non-judgmental theology of a God of love. As she did, he calmed down. They promised to continue the conversation after the service and he quietly walked off to the side.

Then, a funny thing happened. Maybe it was the unexpected noise, the overheard conversation…but, as Monique continued the bilingual sermon, as Ron passed out the bilingual service sheets, people started to come – black, white; Anglo, Hispanic; a few with kids in tow. The interest turned to reverence, as Monique broke the bread. And, as we began the Lord’s Prayer, our circle numbered more than a dozen, strangers holding hands, praying together in Spanish and English.

There were still more – newcomers, old friends Monique knew from the street – as we shared the bread and wine. Monique gave an extra-large piece of bread to the disheveled barefoot woman who kept repeating loudly “I’m hungry!” - responding, I couldn’t help but feel, to yet another persistent widow. And, passing the cup, I’ve learned to say – and mean - “Sangre Cristo.”

It came time for the dismissal. I hadn’t given thought about what to say in Spanish. All that came out was a loud, simple, and heartfelt “Vaya con Dios!”

We all did…but not before sharing what little physical food and drink we had – a case of sodas and that blessed box of Bob’s donuts. It wasn’t much. It wasn’t enough. But, oh, how the little boy beamed, when I produced that chocolate covered donut…how grateful the lady who returned for seconds and thirds.

Little knots of people gathered for continued conversations – old friends of Monique’s who promised to return; a newcomer, a troubled young lady raised Roman Catholic who, upon learning that Monique and I had shared her background, asked about Baptism.

The sun was still out. We had done our “thing.” It was time to” go with God.” We did, waving to each other and to our new friends – as we went our separate ways. Crossing Mission, then 16th, I found a new spring to my step.

About a block away, outside the now-closed Chinese market, I passed a lady who had just shared our bread and donuts. She said “Thank you.” “See you next week,” I replied.

It’s a start.