Tuesday, October 22, 2019, just prior to 12noon close to 50 invited guests and their hosts gathered in the Trendell Lounge at the Synod Office for a special luncheon reception hosted by Archbishop Melissa Skelton celebrating 14 years of the Street Outreach Initiative (SOI).
SOI is a partnership ministry supported by St. James’, the Diocese of New Westminster, trusts, private and corporate donors and other churches and organizations in the diocese and beyond.
The principal purpose of SOI is to put an Anglican priest on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to reach out to, and create an environment where, connections can be made specifically with “street-involved” adults. The priest is the Reverend Fr. Matthew Johnson and he is assisted and supported by administrative assistant, Anna Wood; St. James’ deacon, the Reverend Joyce Locht, a clinical counsellor; and he is also very much helped by St. James’ rector, the Venerable Kevin Hunt, assistant curate, the Reverend Lucy Price and the parishioners of St. James’. Synod administration and finance staff also bring their skills to support SOI.
The people that SOI seeks to reach out to struggle with enormous burdens: mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism, extreme poverty, often homelessness, but the overall condition is trauma.
The luncheon was organized by Pamela McElheran with the help of others and the primary purpose was to thank the donors and partners and bring them up-to-date on the ministry.
Prior to lunch being served, Elder Kelvin Bee, ODNW, member and trustee of the Parish of St. James’, offered prayers and a territorial acknowledgement. He also introduced the St. James’ clergy and asked them to stand and be recognized for their ministry to those who suffer from the various effects of trauma not only on the Downtown Eastside but to all those who seek help and comfort.
There was a delicious buffet consisting of salads, open faced sandwiches, mini quiches followed by delicious cookies, tarts, squares and more.
The programme was simple and consisted of a brief report on current history from Fr. Matthew, an endorsement of the ministry by Archbishop Skelton who addressed the guests (while displaying a cheque in one hand) leading into the screening of a 25 minute promotional film about the ministry produced by documentary filmmaker Cliff Caprani. Cliff is a member of All Saints', Ladner and he has been very generous over the past 10 plus years, sharing his skill and talent with diocesan communications.
On display in the Trendell Lounge were some of the "tools of the trade" - first aid supplies, bottled water, prayer cards, emergency meal tickets, a rosary and a packet of cigarettes, but as attendees were reminded by the speakers who shared and also by the interviewees in the film, it is very much the presence of Fr. Matthew in the neighbourhood that gives the ministry its impact.
Following the screening of the film, Fr. Matthew made himself available for a Q&A session. Some of the questions had to do with the availability of the film in order to give it a wider audience and promote the ministry. The film is available and can be shown to parishes and groups as part of SOI’s ongoing fundraising initiatives.
Fr. Matthew also elaborated on earlier comments he had made about the design and implementation of trauma education workshops as part of SOI, widening the ministries focus. SOI administrative assistant, Anna Wood had this to say about these innovative programs:
"To compliment the weekly rhythms of the pastoral and sacramental care offered to street involved adults and their families, Fr. Matthew, along with clinical counsellor Deacon Joyce Locht, have collaborated with psychologist Antonio Guzman, an experienced counsellor and educator, in delivering a number of trauma education workshops he has developed. Even more than mental illness or addiction in themselves, a history of trauma is perhaps the most common factor affecting street-involved men and women in the Downtown Eastside. Through these trauma workshops, participants acquire insight into their own experience, and valuable tools for the journey towards healing, making a huge improvement to their quality of life."
The luncheon guests were eager to hear more and asked about scheduling and costs of the sessions.
There were questions about budget and the operating cost of this ministry which is in the area of a frugal $130,000 per year.
At 1:35pm, deacon, the Reverend Steve Bailey led closing prayers and gave the dismissal.
For more information about SOI, how you can support the ministry, view the film or arrange a visit from Fr. Johnson you can access the SOI information page on this website or contact their office through email or by phone 604.685.7522.