It’s hard to explain the function of St. Paul’s – and its importance to the local community. Perhaps the words from Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” can capture the essence of St. Paul’s role:
When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down
When you’re down and out, when you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you, I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
and pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind
Many of us are in pretty good shape, the bills are getting paid, no wolf at the door. Good! Welcome to St. Paul’s… But maybe you’re cold, poor, lost your job, can’t find a new one, no money for rent, eviction looms; maybe you’re homeless and have hard time staying at NoFreeze (when it’s open), or living in a hidden away tent; maybe you have addiction issues and there’s no support after you get out of recovery or prison; maybe you have a mental illness and you frighten people,.. Welcome to St. Paul’s!.
Lots of troubled waters but very few bridges! No shortage of social service agencies in town – but their resources are limited, waiting lists are very long, everything takes time, lots of time.
Take winter. It can be hard – especially if you’re homeless. Even November can be pretty cold and miserable but you’re on your own till NoFreeze opens in mid month. It’ll close again in mid April and then it’s camping time again. Recreational camping is one thing, living in a hidden away tent, with no supplies or facilities except what you can put together yourself, with no security, and a long walk to anywhere you need to go is not easy living!
For lots of us St. Paul’s is the bridge over the troubled waters that threaten to drown us. It’s a diverse community founded on God’s love! It’s a community open to all, where it is safe to be yourself, where you will treated with the same respect and privileges as long time parish members. If you crash, go to jail, disappear, you know you’ll be welcomed if you come back. It’s a community that’ll help you keep yourself together during long, uncertain waits. It’s the one place where there is understanding and support, help in getting help. There is no us/them, no religious tests, no case manager/client relationship – we all eat the same food, use the same bathrooms, all equally loved members of God’s family!