On Sept. 4, 12 members of my church, All Saints Episcopal Church of West Newbury, traveled to Boston to participate in the Ecclesia Worship Program at the Boston Common.
This ministry has been in Boston since 1994 and has provided outdoor Sunday worship as a "Common Cathedral" since 1996, joining housed and unhoused people in worship, care, food and other aspects of community life.
Their main focus seeks to end the isolation experienced by people living in shelters and/or on the street. Every Sunday, lunch is served at 12:30 p.m., and the service of Holy Eucharist begins at 1 p.m. The service is festive, a lot of singing with a banjo or maracas and tambourines. It was wonderful to see the interest and care that these people brought into the service, plus their interest in their fellow community members.
Four cars were driven into Boston to get us and 150 lunches to the homeless people of the city. We were witnesses that the members of the congregation are worth our time and effort, and we gave them as much love and attention as we could in a four-hour time span. When "we" step outside our comfort zone and take a risk to just be with people who appear to be different from ourselves, we can't help but be changed by that experience. We traveled this distance to join in the worship, community and camaraderie. I personally had one of the most fulfilling days I've ever experienced.
Services are usually held on the Boston Common across from St. Paul's Cathedral, but due to construction, Mayor Menino and the City Council gave a permit to allow the service on the sidewalk. This allowed us to intermingle with shoppers and tourists, as well as our members and fellow worshippers. Most people were curious, but sadly, some were rude and very curt.
After lunch and the service, our group was asked about our experience, which helps us to understand and reflect together on our times together. I have to admit that the cruel remarks that shoppers and tourists made about the church "taking up sidewalk" and "those people aren't worth the time" tore me apart. I don't believe any human being deserves that treatment!
I was fascinated by how friendly everyone was to us, the eyes that had such serious stares, the stories the children standing in line to eat, blind, elderly and mentally challenged. How can you turn your backs? My attitude hasn't been the same since Sunday. My so-called needs and wants are so petty. I have a roof over my head, food to eat and a faith that keeps me going. I wish the same for all of you.
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Sara-Anne Eames lives in Newburyport.