1st Anniversary of Listening Post at Trinity
By Theresa D. McClellan
For Trinity Episcopal Midtown
It’s been five months since the fellow has been off meth. While walking down the street, likely from a nearby halfway house, he eyed Father Rich Houser seated beneath a tree on Holman Street near Main in front of Trinity Episcopal Church in Midtown with a water cooler, snacks, a couple of empty chairs and a listening ear. He approached. He just wanted to give praise for his life-changing decision and Fr. Rich was present.
It’s Friday afternoon and this is "The Listening Post." A ministry started in April2018 to serve as an oasis in midtown for those wanting a break from the heat and other oppressive matters.
Today was a good day as Fr. Rich, flying solo, had about 30 visitors seeking free refreshments, a listening ear, someone to bear witness to their life. From noon to 2 every Friday, he sets up shop in front of the church, often with writer Theresa D. McClellan who had deadline issues to address today.
But there is always room for anyone wanting to join this ministry. It feeds the soul.
After the recovering addict departed, another visitor approached stating he needed a drink of beer. Fr. Rich engaged. “Why do you need to drink?”
“I need to escape,” the visitor responded. “I don’t like my life right now,” the man continued.
Visitors often include the homeless or near homeless. Some have mental health issues. Some are college students, nearby residents and area workers.
“People tired of being on the street,” continued the man who seemed to fall asleep standing up. He sat down for about 10 minutes in silence then stated, “I gotta get my social security. I gotta find a way to get off the streets.”
Rich listened and gave him an affirmative, “there you go buddy.”
The priest spoke with McClellan after the Listening Post session ended stating, "in 25 minutes, he said only 30 words, but they were powerful words.”
“Hearing people’s stories lets me know about people in the community and teaches me about a variety of people. The takeaway is learning about those who don’t have anything and are really desperate. That understanding gives me more empathy to those hurting an allows me to not second guess and instantly put them in a box. Not that anybody should put anyone in a box,” said Trinity’s associate rector.
One of the biggest gifts of The Listening Post is being present.
“Being open and present to what the Spirit is bringing makes you more open. In my life, in those two hours, it’s really rewarding and good for my soul. It’s an important ministry to be in the hurting places for those who are hurting and those who have a job and may need something more," said the priest.
He noted that in the year’s time of this work on the streets, he has never felt threatened or intimidated. McClellan agrees and calls it the highlight of her week.
If you are interested in joining The Listening Post, contact Fr. Rich at (your preferred contact info here).
“Our ministry is treating symptoms," said Fr. Rich. "The larger issues are mental health advocacy and places for people to live and having a safe place stop to listen. People don’t have places to go to feel safe and that’s what we are doing. I think we are doing meaningful work. We will keep trying.”