St. Columba's Episcopal Church

Imagine if . . . The Water Ministry

(Originally published in the November 2012 Newsletter.)

“Imagine if . . .” This phrase was uttered with great frequency during the parish-wide focus groups held this past August and September. The groups touched on everything from debt reduction to building repairs to formation and outreach, and each generated important conversations about what St. Columba’s can and will do after a successful capital campaign. Just imagine!

One proposed vision that resonated strongly with many parishioners was the creation of more space for the Water Ministry. Four days a week, nine months a year, this ministry offers hospitality to those in our community who are homeless or in need—providing them with lunch, showers and laundry facilities, as well as something even more basic: the opportunity to be in community together and to connect with one another. The proposed new space would also be used for evening and weekend classes and activities. (We know how hard it can be to find somewhere to meet on Sunday mornings.) But most importantly, it would allow volunteers to better serve our Water Ministry guests. A model of the proposed expansion will be on display at the Nov. 30 party and in the Common afterward.

Last week I asked Larry Shelley, Director of the Water Ministry, and the Rev. Rose Duncan, associate rector for service and outreach, to share their thoughts about the proposed expansion. Here’s what they had to say:

Chris: What excites you most about the idea of having more space? What would be the biggest benefit to the proposed expansion?

Larry: An increase in space would allow our guests to have more privacy while showering and washing clothes, but I believe it would also promote community between the volunteers and guests during lunch. Imagine all of our guests sitting at tables, instead of eating on folding chairs in the hallway. Or being able to look across the lunch table to converse with one another or with volunteers. Not to mention how much easier it would be for everyone if we had the room to store supplies in one place.

Rose: It really is about how best to serve our guests. More space would provide better opportunities for  guests and volunteers to interact as true companions. It would allow our guests to have more privacy, a luxury that many of us take for granted. Both aspects are key to our ministry, as they are about respecting and caring for our brothers and sisters. 

Chris: How does the Water Ministry make a difference?

Larry: It is always gratifying to watch someone transition to a place where they are housed and employed. But it’s just as important that we make our guests comfortable and provide a place where people can be themselves. For some of our guests, this may be the only place in a day or a week where that is true. Through the Water Ministry, we have a real and  positive impact on people’s lives. What we do here really matters. It is important work.

Chris: What are the spiritual underpinnings of this ministry?

Rose: In our baptismal covenant, we promise to respect the dignity of every human being and to seek and serve Christ in all persons. Our parish mission statement professes that we are a welcoming Christian community. The Water Ministry is one place where we live out these promises by providing a radical Christian hospitality—a hospitality that, in the words of Henri Nouwen, “is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place.” The gift of increased space would only deepen and strengthen the relationships so treasured by guests and volunteers.

Chris Maynard

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