While I’m in line at the visitors’ window of our county jail, I’m invariably asked by another collared personage what church I serve. My most honest answer is “The Little Converted Crack-House,” which is how we jokingly refer to our A.A. home group. (Before I joined the Recovery Community, I actually assumed this bustling little building was a biker-bar…) Our “crack-house” is, in fact, the place where God & I got to know each other, and the place where (more than any church I’ve ever attended) I am regularly surrounded by other people who have personal, daily connections with the Big Guy. This is where my ministry (with or without clerical collar)–where every Recovering alcoholic’s ministering–takes place. Our own lives depend on it. That’s rather a convoluted answer, though, so when I was first asked about church affiliation, I just mumbled that mine is a “street ministry,” and left it at that.
As far as ordination, my affiliation is with a non-denominational church. (Not non-denominational-Christian, but entirely non-denominational–“In service to God and my fellows,” end of story.) Neither the Ordination nor the Minister ID-card in my wallet nor the clerical collar in themselves make me magically useful–it’s my own experiences (in particular, my life as a Recovering drunk) that enable me to be of service to my fellows. Ordination in my case simply means I’m “recognized by the state” in this capacity, and it opens doors.
It allows me to take those “clergy visits” into the jail. (My husband scans the online log of arrests for me every morning to see if there’s any familiar face who might need a visit. “But few of any sort, and none of name,” he reported this morning, quoting from Much Ado About Nothing…) Happily, these days I also get to walk back OUT of the jail.
Our local women’s shelter, where I volunteered during my five months of joblessness this year, wouldn’t allow A.A. meetings to come in to their facility–although the majority of the ladies in residence are in Recovery, many of them court-ordered to attend a 12-step program, and the shelter’s curfew didn’t allow them to get to outside meetings–because the Program isn’t specifically Christian. But when I showed up in clergy collar to plead the case for an on-site meeting, they suddenly acquiesced. (Hoping God will forgive that bit of manipulation on my part…)
As a fun bonus, I’ve been asked to marry several friends. (To perform the marriages, I mean. I’ve already married my Best Friend–who, by the way, proposed to me by writing the Question on a dollar bill and putting it in the collection basket while I was chairing an A.A. Meeting…) I’ll freely admit that this role has helped me grow and stretch my own comfort-boundaries; I’m much less self-conscious now when someone asks me to pray with them, for example. And for that matter, people seem less self-conscious making that kind of request of me now, so I suppose the collar works in all directions.
“Street Ministry” seems like a pretentious name for the things I do, and I was somewhat embarrassed by my own answer in the jail’s waiting-room. But here’s the break-down: In my previous professional life, I would be greeted by name in the halls of the State Capitol. Now I’m greeted by name in the alley behind the Rescue Mission, where I share a smoke with the rumpled gents after helping my hubby serve dinner at his volunteer-job. Guess which one of those is more soul-satisfying?
We had to move this summer when our house went into foreclosure, and I was asked to do a hospice call shortly thereafter. I knew I had seen the white tab of my clergy collar amid the craziness of unpacking and reorganizing, and remembered putting it “somewhere logical” where I’d naturally look for it when I needed it–but could not find the d@*n thing! After an extensive hunt, I finally turned it up–in my drawer of sports bras. Can’t imagine what possessed me to “file” it there… “Spiritual support”? ;)
11 thoughts on “Confessions of a “Street Minister””
ha….my comment from yesterday’s (Manscaping) post applies for this one too: amazingly diversified life!
I used to do missionary work and was often asked the same question by ministers I would meet. My immediate reaction would be “what difference does it make?” Sadly, for some of them it makes a big difference. A big part of my work was helping them get beyond that, to see that God works through all faiths and longs to be set free in every human heart.
Thank you for expressing that so well!
It’s why I deliberately chose the non-denominational Ordination–not because my own beliefs don’t tend in any specific direction, but because it helps (somewhat) to bypass some of that boxed-in thinking… I’m not here representing “somebody else’s brand of religion”– I’m simply here to minister to YOU…
I think it’s wonderful when you can be married by a friend (My wife and I were).
What a beautiful blog, Kana. I personally think that if Jesus Christ were to suddenly walk among us on this earth he would be more inclined to work beside “street-ministers” such as yourself, rather than those who are more concerned about growing their churches…you know the type, they’re too busy counting nickles & noses! God bless you for being Jesus in the flesh who need Him most.
(On a personal note, I’m trying to better organize myself and my blog(s)–so I hope you will follow me and my poor attempt at this blogging process at: The Old Gray Mule. I’m going to try and dedicate my other blog, Shutterbug Senta, completely to the memory of my son.)
Jesus always did hang out with the down-and-out… Which is a comfort to me, since I’ve landed in that category myself. ;) But with SO many Blessings in my life! Including–still–a roof over my head. But truly, spending time at the Shelter or the Mission is a matter of spending time with people LIKE ME. Addicts (like me), jobless (me again, for most of this year),people with families and stories and lively senses of humor… I’ve been honored to know them.
You’re so right – he always hung out with those who were marginalized by society. I wrote not long ago that he not only loved them and preferred them, he actually seemed to crave them. He couldn’t stand the self-righteous folks preaching and following rules as if to prove a point, losing the message along the way. I love knowing that there is someone “out there” who does this. God is for everybody, period, and the very people who claim to be so close to him are the ones who forget the forgotten. Keep up the great work!
Hey, thanks for liking my post and subscribing. I will do the same.
Fascinated by your journey, and your sharing. I look forward to reading more.
Blessings to you.
Spiritual support! Love it! We all need it. Thanks for the post.
I think it’s great how you’ve devoted yourself!