September 21, 2015


There is the world of True Shalom and then there is current reality. We are asked to hold True Shalom in our hearts-the Jesus path- as we walk in limited current reality.

The other day, we met a father of four, on the sidewalk. The family was homeless and down to their last diaper. The day before their stroller had been stolen. This was their current reality.

We were able to find them a double stroller and to hand off two packs of diapers. The father was extremely grateful and pointed to his wife and four children sitting nearby under a tree. True Shalom - where everyone is valuable and all know they are loved - broke thru.

We are coming into a cooler time when hoodies will be very needed by the homeless. Please look around and see if you can donate a clean hoodie (L or XL) Love to you all.

August 11, 2015


Last June, Jim was new at Preble Street. He had crushed his foot in an auto accident 25 years ago and had since held a succession of manual, heavy duty jobs. Now I can’t do without this crutch, he said, wincing, and with all my weight on this other leg, my good foot is giving out too. Can you help me, pastor?

I met Jim on Tuesdays or a Sunday thereafter. We’d talk. I got him cushioned sneakers, which helped. But it didn't address the deterioration of the foot bones. It's been bone on bone for years, he said. Mid-July, Jim’s Case worker and I brought him to Maine Med's orthopedic clinic. There, an empathetic specialist fitted him with a "boot," which surrounded the injured foot and ankle and eased the pain. At the desk, preliminary steps were taken for a surgical appointment. I love you two, Jim said on the way out, hobbled but hopeful.

Ten days passed. I looked forward to seeing Jim again, to hearing how much better his foot was in the boot, how much his pain had eased, how much he looked forward to his surgery date. Instead, outside the soup kitchen, Jim described how nothing of this had happened, how the pain was back in force, how no surgery could be scheduled until a raft of papers were assembled and processed. Jim was back in the hole, flush with pain, in despair.

Nearly every one of our people faces a version of Jim's plight. Nearly every one carries the burden of this or that past injury and is alone with it in one sense or another. We pastors can facilitate connections to health care, to housing, even to employment. We can and do address physical circumstances with boots, sneakers, socks, hoodies, underwear, t-shirts, and the like. But we know we succeed in this giving when somehow we also communicate God’s own mysterious and abiding love. And that’s when it happens: a knowing look, a gesture of gratitude, a prayer or a blessing, or just an “I love you, pastor.”

Then the burdens re-assert, the tide of needs comes back in, and we know, and our people know, that the work is always, always up-hill. Then we all wince, and we go on.

June 25, 2015


Out on the street, in addition to the socks and the t-shirts, the sneakers and the coffee cards, we do a lot of praying.  We pray for the souls of loved ones who have died, we pray for children who have been taken away, and we pray for the strength to get through another day out on the street.  In prayer, there is the hope of a new and brighter day.

Most of the time it’s hard to know if our prayers have been answered.  One has to take the long view and have faith that over time change will come to the circumstances of our lives, and that our immediate comfort is tied to that hope for the future.
But then there are the times where there’s a clear and dynamic answer, an unambiguous affirmation that our prayers have been heard and answered.  That happened last night when the City Council of Portland voted unanimously to restore funding for the overflow shelter at the Preble Street Resource Center, keeping 75 homeless adults safe and off the night streets of our city.   And by continuing to provide General Assistance for asylum seekers, the council showed that “Life is Good Here” isn’t just a motto for upscale condo residents, it’s a motto for all of us.

Compassion ruled the day.  Our prayers were answered.   Amen and blessed be.

April 30, 2015

May 2015 - Update

One day while visiting with a homeless woman, who was severely mentally and physically challenged, she shared, “Pastor, I can't even pray. Do you know what that's like?” I told her I did know and that I had found it like being in the darkest of tunnels. As I was thinking this, I heard within,”You pray for her”.  I knew this was not meant as,  pray for her well-being, but, rather, you stand next to her and pray because she can't. At our best, this is what we all can do.  When there is no voice we can manage, when the words are dried up and the heart cannot find the faith, someone stand for us and pray- someone remember when we cannot remember and, with humility, speak for us.When we have been dealt just too much to bear and the injustice is drowning us, stand up and call out to heaven for us. 

Sometimes someone will ask what we are up to on the streets, and one of the things I say is, “Our business is prayer and we may be able to help with a few needs”.

April 07, 2015

April Update 2015

Well, you’d scarcely know that spring has arrived in Portland these first few days of April, and as usual March came in like a lion and went out, well, like a lioness. Still, Grace-Street Ministry’s three pastors and several volunteers are a hardy lot, and for as long as boots, gloves, coats, and long johns are required in and about the shelters, we shall hand them out. Then we'll switch to sneakers and tarps and tee shirts. 
Our people, Portland’s homeless and marginalized, number into the many hundreds, and many of them shoulder heavy burdens and face serious challenges, as every Preble Street Case Worker knows. But as God is with our people (Matt 25:40) so we take each one as a gift, and from where s/he is, here and now, right there beside us. And besides the “stuff” we distribute, we offer the intangibles of companionship when it is needed and prayer when is warranted. And we get on the phone or into the car when one of ours has a shot at an apartment or a job or needs a prescription filled or a trip to the bus station.

It is hard to put in writing, but there are very close moments in this work, at an 11:30  Sunday service across from the Preble Soup Kitchen, or on the walks we take along Congress street, or in a hospital room at Maine Medical, or in the spirituality group at Amistad Day Shelter, or in the heavy press of the Resource Center or Courtyard at Preble Street, moments of great joy, moments of deep sorrow, moments of serious humor. And each of these moments, we believe, is given us and given our people by the grace of God, as an offering or an instruction for the Journey through life, our journey together. It is humbling.