|The Rev. Matthew Johnson is "drummed" to a commissioning ceremony at Diocesan Synod by Nishga'a drummers Keane Tait and Zachery Tait.|
Johnson, an honourary assistant at St. James’ in Vancouver, will be available on regular walks through one of the city and country’s poorest neighbourhoods, and make himself available to all who approach him.
“Of the many people who spend their time on the Streets of the Downtown East Side, most are seeking, spirituality,” Johnson told the Synod.
“The vast majority are believer in God. And the majority of believers are Christians, something they will tell you quite readily. In their faith in God surely there is hope.”
He said that most street people won’t go into churches directly. Their impression of the church as a “Formidable Institution,” he said, “concerned mostly with more reform and respectability.”
He said this impression he hopes to change and he spends time and builds relationships one-on-one with men and women.
|Bishop Michael Ingham commissions the Rev. Matthew Johnson as a street priest in the Downtown East Side.|
“It’s about sitting down with and listening to them,” John said. “It’s about getting to know their names, their stories, and their struggles, and praying for and with them.”
He said he did not intend to push them to go to Church, but he certainly would try to convey that they would be welcome at St. James’ and elsewhere.
Johnson said that while his contact will be primarily one of listening, at times he expected he will be called upon provide short term basic care - a voucher for an “emergency meal, a drive to hospital, or a call to a homeless shelter in search of a bed.”
The ministry, which Johnson has piloted for several months, will be supported by the parish of St. James’, the diocese’s Anglican Initiative Fund, the diocesan Going the Extra Mile voluntary giving program, and philanthropist donors including City in Focus. Johnson will work with an advisory committee of people from both his parish and the diocese, who were commissioned at Synod along with him.