In Romans 1:1-5a, Paul introduces himself, and lays out his vocation. Readers will remember his ‘calling’ from reading acts chapter 9. He sets forth his claim to apostleship, for he knows that for his audience to understand the meaning and the import they must come to grips with the calling that dominates his life.
When I was 13 years old, in accordance with the tradition of my church, I was confirmed, in the faith. This involved me standing before the congregation and before the Bishop, and asserting that the vows which were made on my behalf as a baby were now my own. While for many of my peers this was just a hoop to be jumped through, for me it was serious business. I do not want you to think I am a serious person for humour and indeed deviltry, are much a part of the fabric of my life, but in this instance I was serious indeed. For years I had attended bible classes and recently Confirmation classes and the stories and verses I had heard, stuck in my brain like Velcro. My teachers were astonished at the facility I demonstrated in learning scripture and with the maturity (again in this one area of life) of my theological understanding. When it came time for the Bishop to lay his hands on me and pray that I might be filled and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Rector (the minister in charge of the congregation) interrupted and asked if the Bishop would say an additional prayer regarding God’s calling on my life for ministry. It seemed my life’s course was set. I was to be a ‘minister’ unto God. With my limited experience of what this might mean, I assumed that I would grow up to be a priest and rector like the mentor who requested that prayer. Many years later I explored this calling but found that it was not for me, in fact the idea of pastoral ministry left me entirely cold! To say the least this was disappointing. I felt a bit like a bride left at the altar! God had both placed a calling on my life and frustrated that calling. In my perplexity I sought out a saintly assistant pastor at our church. He asked me if I had ever considered the Church Army, which has since (gladly) been renamed Threshold Ministries. I asked “What is that?” and he replied “A Society of Evangelists.” I had only a limited experience and understanding of the concept of ‘Evangelist’. The understanding I had was shaped by “Elmer Gantry” and a variety of notorious tele-evangelists, so I did not immediately receive his suggestion with enthusiasm. Noticing this he went on to explain that the ‘evangel’ was the Good News of Jesus Christ, and that an Evangelist was simply one who recommends Jesus to people and people to Jesus. The very simplicity of his explanation drew me like a moth to a flame. I had found my calling. I Reed, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an Evangelist and set apart for the gospel of God….
If I ever wondered about this calling I was reassured at our Threshold National Gathering. In the fellowship of my ‘family of Evangelists’ I was reminded of this special, dare I say ‘sacred’ call. Though life has been a bit disappointing for me, of late, I am encouraged to persevere. I have become convinced that in order to best exercise this calling in my community, that it is time to launch ‘Street Hope Saint John’. In doing so I am humbly walking in the footsteps of other Threshold Evangelists, who have answered the call to bring the Good News of Hope to the marginalized of Canada’s inner-cities.
Readers will know that since mid-April I have been ‘off’ from ministry at Community Chaplaincy. I have been working with the National Office and a variety of friends to begin the work of launching this street level ministry.
STREET HOPE SAINT JOHN
We believe the Good News of Jesus is the hope for the streets of our inner city.
We believe that God can, and does, transform lives.
We believe that God is calling us to be catalysts in the creation of a ‘community of the transformed’. The purpose of this community is to grow in faith and service together and to be an agent for transformation in the wider community.
Modest Beginnings Big Hopes
Initially Street Hope would not require a building but would meet in various church facilities and people’s homes. The times together would be centred on three themes.
1) Study and worship
We believe there is no higher calling than to worship God. We believe that for Street Hope to be a catalyst in the community we must find ourselves in God’s presence and grow in our knowledge of Him.
Street Hope would gather as a community for worship, study and prayer at least once a day. The original format for this may be “Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” which seeks to have worship rooted in historical Christian patterns while emphasizing missional lives today.
2) Outreach and Maintenance Programs
The emphasis here is to provide venues where people can find freedom in Christ, from a variety of addictions and behaviours. Many of the founding members of the community come from lives ensnared in these addictions, so the program would be of use in maintaining their freedom while reaching out to help others in the wider community to find such freedom. This would involve 12 Step studies, an Overcomers program and a variety of video and guest speakers or ministries. This would be the main way in which people become new members of the community.
3) Serving the Master
The community and its individuals would serve the wider community. This would mainly be done by volunteering with other existing ministries, particularly those that serve the marginalized of our city. Examples would be: Out of the Cold, Out Flow, Hope Mission, Salvation Army Friendship Centre, and mission activities sponsored by local churches.
We believe that as Street Hope grows in love and service that there may come a time when a building may be necessary. We dream of a residential building in which we can be a community in every sense. We believe that there may be opportunities in the future to help support local ‘social enterprises’. These are business initiatives which are intended to provide social good (a double bottom line). We believe these dreams may not be in the immediate future for Street Hope but we intend to follow our vision trusting that in God’s time he will provide all the resources necessary.
We believe that God will meet all of our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
We believe that he does that through people.
Our initial needs are modest for such an ambition. To launch Street Hope will require one salaried position and some limited material expenses. We believe that commitments totalling $4,000/month would see us successfully launch this vision of a transformed community in cooperation with other Christians bringing fresh hope to the streets of our city.