The Listening Post is back

By Theresa D. McClellan

The oranges, protein bars, cookies, and ice water were appealing, but Anthony wanted prayer.

The jovial man eagerly packed the treats in his belongings,but you know I’m so thankful I just wanna hear a prayer, he said.

I invited him to take the second chair. Another man with sad eyes had approached simultaneously and took the empty seat next to me. He told me he was looking for a blessing.

This was just the first 10 minutes of our return to the two-hour Listening Post held from noon to 2 pm every Friday in front of Trinity Episcopal Church Midtown.

Damon was starting to tell me his concerns when Anthony grabbed a seat, saying he was five months without blood pressure medicine and he was giving thanks because the Lord of the Streets just got him access to the life-giving medicine. I asked Damon did he want to wait, and he nodded yes.

I looked at both men, placed a hand in the air, and prayed aloud to a God who hears our joy and sorrow. They exchanged names and fist-bumped after the first prayer and then encouraged one another on their journeys. “This is such a blessing, Anthony said with a big grin. Counseling costs $300, and this is free.”

I reminded him I don’t counsel. I listen. I pray if requested. I give him the space to hear his thoughts in a nonjudgemental open-air setting. Damon stayed to talk longer about his need for employment and a wish for a closer connection to his family. I told him since the first thing he asked for was a blessing, God was already working in his life preparing that blessing and more. He smiled, and we sat in silence until he felt like speaking again. I gave him prayers for his specific concerns, and he thanked me profusely.

So many do not have anyone to talk to, and the Listening Post is what I call a ministry of presence. But, unfortunately, we had to stop in 2020, and after much prayer and discernment, our Rector, Mother Hannah, said it was time to bring back yet another piece of the programming we had to halt during COVID. I love that the acronym of her full name, Hannah Elizabeth Atkins Romero, spells HEAR.

So I am seeking out volunteers by writing stories of the Listening Post encounters to give you an idea of what to expect.

In addition to the ice water and individually packaged treats I serve from the table, we provide hand sanitizer, sturdier masks, and a resource page of area services. As the days get cooler, we will provide coffee and hot cocoa.

To be a volunteer, you should have a heart of hospitality. It would help if you listened without judgment, were aware of your surroundings, and picked up on non-verbal cues when someone wanted to talk. Be comfortable with prayer. Mirror their words so they are making decisions on their own. Make the stranger feel welcome.

Later in the day, a young woman approached the treats-laden table and fresh water on the street and read the sign encouraging passersby to stop, sit, talk about their day, or whatever was on their minds.

“For real?” she asked. I nodded, offered her a drink, and invited her to sit and talk with me. Her lips trembled, and she released a big sigh as she poured out her pain of being two years homeless, HIV positive and unable to go home because she said her family was afraid of her health status.

I served her two cups of ice water and told her I was sorry that she was going through all of this alone. She said she had to use the restroom, but could I pray for her. I placed one hand on her shoulder and told her she was a beloved child of God and was not the one to be feared. She burst into tears.

“I think I want to come here, she said, and I assured her she was more than welcome at our church. I told her that we had just celebrated a World Aids Day Service the prior week with powerful prayers. For real?” she asked again with a big grin.

I told her that was the first night of our in-person Wednesday night healing service, so we combined that special liturgy with our regular Zoom healing service and live-streamed the chapel service. I told her we have a variety of Sunday services, from the contemplative 8 am programming to the traditional liturgical rich 10:30 am service in the beautiful main sanctuary to the Spirit-filled robust 1230 p.m. jazz service in the more intimate chapel. We also have resumed in-person 5:30 pm Evening Prayer nightly, followed by our distribution of sack lunch meals to our unhoused and near homeless guests. And of course, the Listening Post is every Friday from noon-2 pm.

She thanked me and ran down the street toward a restroom.

Over the next two hours, folks came for the food, for conversation, for prayer, or all three. Some took all three edible treats available. Others choose just one. “I want to make sure there is enough for everybody, said more than one visitor.

God calls us beloved and calls us to be a beloved community. In that belief, to me,

there is always enough. That’s just how God works, I said.

If interested in volunteering for the Listening Post, contact [email protected]

Theresa D. McClellan

Listening Post and Evening Prayer Ministries