November 22, 2017

November 2017 Blog Post

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
bread, juice
need hot drink, dunkin cards?
holy one guide my heart
extending belonging
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

September 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.

Grace happens.

July 26, 2017

July 2017 Update

We are all impacted by the changing seasons in New England, and we make adjustments such as putting the snow tires on and taking them off, changing the screens and storm windows, going between the lawnmower and snow blower, and swapping the clothes in our closets.  While we feel the changes, the impact on those who spend the majority of their time out in the elements is that much greater.  I thought that the summer would bring welcome relief to the homeless, and in many ways it does.  However, it also brings with it a new set of challenges.  If you’re sleeping on the 3rd floor of the shelter, the fans are probably not keeping up with the rising heat and humidity which makes sleep a challenge.  So maybe you take a nap in the courtyard of Preble Street Resource Center or the yard of the Oxford Street Shelter.  As the sun moves across the sky your shady spot is now in the direct sun and you wake up with severe burns.  Unfortunately, going to Walmart for aloe and some loose-fitting scrubs probably isn’t an option.
Sometimes the pastors of Grace-Street Ministry are able to offer the aloe and scrubs, and sometimes we’re able to just lend a compassionate ear and shoulder that acknowledges their humanity and reminds someone that they are a beloved child of the Holy One.  Whatever the season, the longing to know we’re loved does not change, especially if one is a member of the marginalized of society. 
Thank you for your prayers and support for this amazingly complex and dynamic community.  May God’s peace and blessings be with you.

Pastor Dave

April 13, 2017

April Blog Update

  After eleven years, as of next month I will be ending my work on the street with the homeless in Portland.
Rev. Nancy White, an ordained UCC minister, will be taking over my street hours  and I will remain Director of Grace-Street Ministry and continue to work behind the scenes.

 It is sad saying goodbye to the hundreds of people who have taught me so much, allowed me access to their precious life stories and made me a better person by challenging my judgements and expanding my reality of poverty and homelessness. It has been a privilege knowing and loving them. Our work will continue and may Spirit continue to guide Pastor Bob, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Nancy and Pastor Dave in providing a pastoral, loving presence with the brave souls on the edge of society, our brothers and sisters all. Thank you so for your continued support.  Love, Rev. Mair Honan 

March 13, 2017

March blog post

It’s easy out on the streets, especially in the colder months, to get caught up in the day-to-day struggle just to survive.  But every so often, even in the waning months of a Maine winter, something different and more profound breaks through.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking with a Passamaquoddy woman outside the day shelter, and she said, “you know, Pastor, it’s faith that leads to hope, and it’s hope that leads to love.”  I’ve thought a lot about all three of those words, but never as one engendering the other.  But as I thought about it, I realized that she’d perfectly encapsulated a road map for the application of the two commandments that Christ emphasized -- the love of God and the love of neighbor.  Faith in something larger (God) leads to hope for a better world, and this is expressed in the day-to-day by the love of others.  But without faith in something larger, it’s almost impossible to find the love of others that is at the root of transformation. 

Some days it’s all about socks and coats and boots and hand warmers.  Other days, you get a deep lesson in theology that could only have been found in the stripped-down margins at the edges of society. 

January 18, 2017

January 2017 Blog post

January 2017 Blog post
Winter’s tough at Preble street. Often just teens above zero days, zero or below nights. Many still choose the outdoors. Most take to the shelters. Days, there is the Resource center and the Soup kitchen, and the Resource center Courtyard. Inside the Resource center, it can (on a sunny cold day for example) be sparsely populated and very quiet. Folks may sit four or five to a long table or interspersed around the room’s perimeter in chairs. A few at the counter confer with a case worker on duty. Or it can (on a grey cold day for example) be chock-a-block, with nearly every seat at each long table taken, every chair along the perimeter occupied, and even the floor spaces taken, and a constant stream of people leaving for or entering from the Courtyard by the double doors. These latter days, the sullen cold outside can seem either to unify folks against adversity or to divide them by testiness and altercation.
Winter’s tough at Preble street. Yet through it all, at least two case workers wo/man the Resource center desk and phone. This is where needs are expressed, now quietly, now stridently, and where needs are met, housing needs for example. Homeless people have strikes against them, sometimes many strikes, when it comes to the housing which can stabilize a life or lives. And so, when after a long time, measured in months or years, one of our folks, aided by a diligent case worker, finds a residence, it is really, really, really something to celebrate. And that’s how it was one recent Tuesday when I greeted Julio—a quiet thirty something Central American man who’d fled the violence in his home country and then, for the three years I’ve known him, hung on to the hope for housing. “I have an apartment now!” he answered me in Spanish, “in the high rise.” We both burst into smiles, and then shook hands warmly. At last, I said. At last, he said. “May I still have a t-shirt?” he winked. Long-suffering was not the word for it because that had now passed. Jubilant was the word for it.
Winter’s tough at Preble street. But Grace-Street ministry stuck by Julio over the years, week in week out. And finally, by one case worker’s hard work and a landlord’s wisdom, Julio finally was housed. My goodness. Amen

January 05, 2017

December 2016 Blog Post

As the newest member of the team, I’m seeing this amazing community of people with fresh, wide-open eyes.  There are harsh realities that can be overwhelming if you don’t see all the beauty that is there, even if it’s sometimes hidden by drugs, alcohol, mental illness, bad decisions, and plain bad luck.  On the streets I’m seeing unimaginable pain and unexpected compassion; debilitating addiction and inspiring recovery; desolate isolation and resilient community; fear inducing uncertainty and awe inspiring hope.
There is far more complexity and richness among this community than I ever expected.  Yet within all this, a pair of socks and a willing ear are valuable commodities.  It seems like so little to offer, but the responses we experience tell a different story.  Your support, in all its forms, allows for a ministry that fills a small yet important niche for the marginalized of our community.
Peace and blessings in this season of Advent and in the coming New Year.

Pastor Dave