Monday, April 13, 2015

Showers of Blessings

Open for Business
It was a beautiful and Christ-filled morning at the Cathedral Saturday as Showers of Blessings arrived at our 6th Avenue courtyard and more than a dozen volunteers enthusiastically seized the opportunity to try to live out our baptismal vow to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

For those unfamiliar with the Showers of Blessings Ministry, it’s a ministry of our diocese, whereby the diocese loans its two-unit, mobile shower trailer to any parish wishing to offer showers to homeless neighbors. At the Cathedral, this is a no-brainer. We don’t have to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” We clearly see our neighbor every day, immediately across the street in the park, sleeping on the lawn (dowsed by sprinklers most mornings), lugging all of his earthly possessions in a small, wheeled suitcase (if lucky) or in a battery of plastic grocery bags (if not), trying his best to keep clean in the dirty restroom sinks that the park has to offer, every day feeling more and more cast out by the rest of society. This is no exaggeration. Those of us who do regular outreach within the park hear in their voices and see in their eyes how rare it is for these beloved children of God to feel embraced or even acknowledged by their housed neighbors. We’ve found that there is immense dignity to be offered in just acknowledging their presence or their right to try to eke out an existence as best they can. And offering a chance to shower! That’s huge in the life of someone who so rarely has the chance to feel clean. Fortunately, we now have showers to offer!

Veletia Kennedy, Kristen Hill Maher, 
John Townsend,  and Kim Sorrell
At our bishop’s most recent Cathedral visitation, in the forum, he spoke of the church of the future. In particular, he pointed out that putting up a sign saying, “The Episcopal Church welcomes you,” is grossly insufficient – that we need to get out to meet people on their ground if we are truly to welcome them within the church. Interestingly, despite having promoted the idea for weeks among the seemingly enthusiastic park residents, we immediately found on Saturday morning that merely parking a shower trailer decorated with the inviting and cheerful “Showers of Blessings” logo was insufficient as well. So, two of our volunteers went to meet our neighbors where they live. Traipsing through the west side of the park, the volunteers introduced themselves (and St. Paul’s) to our neighbors, offering tickets for free showers. The Cathedral now truly had its gates and doors wide open to them.

By the time our guests arrived, we had prepared a simple welcome, with one volunteer having supplied donuts and coffee, while others placed chairs around the courtyard, so people had a place to rest without having to sit constantly on the hard ground… the beginning of dignity and the beginning of feeling welcomed within the Cathedral family.

Coffee and fellowship with Kris Summit, 
Mary Doak, Randy, Kim Sorrell
While waiting for their showers, guests and volunteers enjoyed fellowship and quiet conversation, getting to know one another. A second group of volunteers staffed the actual showers within the clergy parking lot. As each guest’s designated shower time arrived, in addition to smiles and genuine warmth, the volunteers provided towels, hygiene supplies, and instructions for leaving the shower clean for the next guest. Later, these volunteers remarked at the transformation that the showers provided for our new friends. One was quite obvious as our very first guest had shown up early with a Wal-Mart bag of new clothing that he’d purchased on sale (via a bus trip to Clairemont), but had been carrying around unopened for weeks, waiting for the occasion of this shower to don the clean clothes. But for other guests who didn’t even have clean clothes, the transformation was still apparent, as someone noted that – once clean – they’d been visibly friendlier, happier and more “chatty.” It’s hard for me even to imagine the sense of lightness that one must have in feeling clean after weeks or months without a shower.

We know how we’re supposed to treat the “least among us.” On this, the gospels are quite clear. If you’re like me, though, sometimes putting that into practice, determining what precisely we might do, how do we even interact with our homeless neighbors, is what becomes difficult. The Showers of Blessings makes this very easy. We all came with open hearts, ready to provide very simple hospitality to those in need. As often happens, though, this was turned on its head, as we all came away feeling blessed many times over as though we, and not our guests, were the true recipients of the gift of love.

It was a beautiful and Christ-filled morning at the Cathedral Saturday. The next chance to serve will be Saturday, May 9th. We’ll be hosting Showers of Blessings on the second Saturday of every month. If you’d like to participate in this ministry, even if you’re currently somewhat apprehensive, feel free to contact me at, or I’d be happy to discuss it after 10:30 worship on any Sunday.  Click here to see more pictures on the flickr site.

Lynne Fish

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome! What a great account! Beautiful!