This past summer a group of students from Bangor Theological Seminary (BTS) participated in a new course offering that allowed students to minister to the homeless and marginalized in downtown Portland, Maine. The course, “Sacred on the Street”, aimed to provided “…an opportunity for students to experience a non-traditional ministry, to enrich their understanding of the daily struggles of the poor and to grow in compassion for the homeless.”
The course was taught by the Rev. Mair Honan, an ordained United Church of Christ minister. Rev. Honan is the pastor at Grace Street Ministry. Grace is “…an outreach ministry offering a consistent, compassionate, pastoral presence to the homeless and marginalized in downtown Portland, Maine– to relieve suffering, to address the spiritual needs in this ever shifting community and to decrease the prejudice between the housed and the homeless through preaching, education and experience.”
Grace Street Ministry seeks to support the homeless and marginalized in this community through presence, prayer, and advocacy. This might mean sharing a cup of coffee with a person, or helping them to find a used bicycle or pair of boots.
Grace Street Ministry is dear to many students at BTS. The Rev. Chick Carroll,’11 had the opportunity to walk with Rev. Honan in a similar course offering a few years back. JusticeandMercyME recently had the chance to talk with Rev. Carroll about his time walking with Rev. Honan.
When asked what makes Grace Street Ministry unique, Rev. Carroll offered, “What makes it unique to me is its frankly religious nature. As the Rev Mair Honan says, “my name is Mair, my business is prayer.” There’s no pretense this is a social service initiative. Mair is explicit in offering a way to be with Christ.”
Rev. Carroll found the biggest “aha” moment was to meet others who could have been in his shoes, “To realize in a very profound way that I could be in their place if things had gone just a little bit differently–for me and for them.”
Do you pass through downtown Portland (or someplace beyond), unsure of how to help our brothers and sisters holding up: “Homeless: Please Help” signs? While Grace Street Ministry does not seek to solve the greater social problems that have caused homelessness, they do offer wisdom on how to be present to that population through their acts of mercy.
If you would like to help, consider supporting Grace Street Ministry with a financial donation, by becoming a partner, or supplying an item from the “How You Can Help List”. $5 dollar gift cards to Dunkin Donuts and Subway are always welcome. Those simple gift cards offer a homeless person the opportunity to go get a little something to drink or eat, use a restroom, and have a warm (or cool, in these summer months) place to sit.
If you are interested in possibly walking with Rev. Honan as part of a BTS course or to simply support this ministry than please be in touch with BTS or Grace Street Ministry about future possibilities.