Friday, October 28, 2011

Expanding a Ministry . . .

I’ve been wanting to write about a staff meeting I attended for the Night Ministry a while back. (I know, I seem to be on a meeting kick lately, but this job just includes the best meetings.)

What struck me at this meeting is the breadth of ministry Night Ministry has taken on in recent years. For 47 years Night Ministry has had a minister on the street every single night from 10p.m. until 4a.m. and most of those nights we’ve had volunteer Crises Line Counselors to answer the phone between 10p.m. and 2a.m. Though our ministers only work in San Francisco, we do have phone calls from far afield. Being present for anyone in need at those hours, providing everything from company to crisis intervention is a pretty broad endeavor all on its own.

In recent years, though, we’ve ventured into new areas. Namely, the daytime. What does a Night Minister do during the day? Outdoor worship for one. For three years and counting we’ve held Open Cathedral at our Civic Center location every Sunday (except Pride, when the City uses the space) rain or shine. This worship means so much to the regulars that we have had 30 people in the pouring rain and sometimes have as many as 100 for worship (sometimes a great many more than that for the lunch we serve afterward). Open Cathedral Civic Center now also hosts a Tuesday evening community gathering at the Faithful Fools building (usually with food – always with great conversation and warm fellowship) and we’re talking about adding a church school in the new year. Recently, we also launched an Open Cathedral in the Mission on Thursday evenings.

Night Ministry has both day and night time presences, pastoral care, crises intervention, worship and fellowship. We’re in all the busy neighborhoods at night and a fair few by day. Where else could we expand? The Internet. The Web may seem like an unlikely place to find street ministers, but it turns out that the same nonjudgmental, compassionate care we provide in person is much needed online, too. Our deacon, Diana Wheeler, started Open Cathedral Castro a couple of years ago. At first it was a once a week outdoor service like our other Open Cathedrals, but it just didn’t seem to be meeting the needs of that neighborhood. Never one to mess around when something isn’t working, Diana re-envisioned Open Cathedral Castro into a sacred space online. They still hold events in the neighborhood from time to time but Open Cathedral Castro now also has 522 followers online. People send prayers, receive pastoral care online and see from far and wide just how welcoming a church can be. It has become the primary place for many in need of spiritual care. You can check them out at:

As we talked about our variety of ministries I just sat there thinking how cool it is to be part of an organization that serves such a wide diversity of people in so many ways. If you think it sounds cool, too, drop me a line at and we’ll figure out which of our many volunteer opportunities (we need folks both day and night times) will work for you.

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