On Sunday afternoon, January 31st, I decided to go to the outdoor church service on Boston Common. Ecclesia Ministries hosts “Common Cathedral,” which is a worship service that is held there faithfully, every single Sunday at Brewer’s Fountain at 1 p.m. for “people experiencing homelessness and their friends” in Boston. This faith-filled group meets 52 weeks of the year regardless of the weather. A simple meal is provided before the service by volunteers who come from churches as far away as Vermont to be present to, and learn more about the needs of the members of this disenfranchised community.
I had been volunteering with the program along with a friend (who is much more consistent than I am in attending) to provide musical accompaniment for the services. But I’m more of a fair-weather friend, and tend not to participate if it’s below 45 degrees, or if it’s snowing or raining. But it was a balmy 56 degrees that Sunday, and I hadn’t attended for some time and really wanted to be there; it had become an extended faith community away from my home church in the suburbs.
During the service we learned of the tragic death of one of its members – a man named Michael – just a few days before. He was found on Wednesday morning wrapped in just a sheet and a grey wool blanket on the steps of Old South Church in Boston after spending the night there in sub-freezing temperatures. There was such sadness and not a little rage as the people gathered there shared their reactions to Michel’s passing and offered their prayers for hope. Through their testimony, they endeavored to turn injustice into positive action.
A memorial service for Michael was scheduled at 7 a.m. on February 3rd on the steps of Old South Church near the Copley “T” stop. I left early that morning for Boston, earlier than my regular commuting time, to be a presence at the service and to offer a song. I felt compelled to be there; this mattered. Parishioners from Old South Church and from Common Cathedral gathered and shared prayers, stories, anger. They offered prayers that this injustice would not be repeated, and that the lives of all people – no matter what his or her life circumstances – would be valued and that “the least of these” would be seen and cared for. We all matter.
I didn’t know Michel, but I have felt the loss for days.
It is clear that the remedy needs to be now, that folks experiencing homeless are at risk now! We need to open our eyes and open our hearts now!
There is something that everyone can do. Even if it’s just recognizing or acknowledging a stranger on the street who is sitting on a milk crate holding a paper cup and saying “good morning” – it matters. Maybe offer him a cup of coffee or a bottle of water, maybe offer her some hot chocolate or a banana, or even a gift card to a coffee shop or supermarket.
If you feel inspired to help out now, check out the Ecclesia Ministries web page (http://commoncathedral.org/) to see what’s going on there and what volunteer opportunities are available throughout the city through their programs.
on Boston Common
Ric Bailey, Chris Nordstrom & "Banjo Bill"