Rev. Paul Poolton with the Street Angels' admin team (from left): Merissa Mills, Marnie Monrose and Elaine Langlois
By Rev. Paul Poolton
A random post on Facebook from a local support organization looking for a place they could call home – this was all that the parish community of St. Augustine of Canterbury in Windsor needed to provide its assistance to the vulnerable members of the city.
The Facebook post was noticed by the rector and a reply was sent to this group who called themselves “Street Angels Windsor-Essex” with an offer to talk about a possible solution to their need for a home base for their operation. Following a quick conversation between the rector and the administrators of the outreach group, an invitation was extended to Street Angels to present their work to the parish council of St. Augustine.
“Street Angels” – Merissa Mills, Marnie Monrose and Elaine Langlois – shared that their outreach work included meals, clothes and blankets to homeless people in the community, a small emergency food bank, transitional help for folks caught in emergency homelessness (fires, floods, escaping abuse, and more) as well as being a team of volunteers who offered assistance and advocacy for people on the fringes of our wider community. They also shared that they were in need of somewhere to call home, not for the purpose of establishing a soup kitchen type of ministry, but to operate their vehicle-based mobile ministry out of a central hub.
This passionate group of volunteers is not necessarily associated with any particular faith community but for the church members present at that meeting, they could hear the work of the Gospel being done – something they wanted to support and become a part of. A unanimous decision was made to invite the outreach group into church building as full partners in ministry, sharing building resources, volunteers, and time to continue the work of feeding the hungry, bringing water to the thirsty, comfort and warmth to the lonely and cold.
Not surprisingly, the Street Angels were as excited as the members of the church were at the opportunity, and they started the process of moving into the building at the end of March.
The Street Angels’ cry for help came as the church members were trying to create new ways to develop ministry partnership with other groups, in which the church building would become an extension of their mission.
As our church communities begin to emerge from the pandemic and all of its associated closures and restrictions, many are beginning to realize that the Body of Christ who used to gather and offer ministry beyond Sunday morning worship has begun to decrease, and some passionate volunteers find themselves in a position to have to scale back their availability.
The community of St. Augustine realized early on that this was going to be true in their congregation. It became clear that the physical church building itself – a fully large parish hall and commercial kitchen – could be developed in new ways into a fantastic opportunity for ministry to our neighbours.
The partnership with Street Angels is just the first example of how we at St. Augustine of Canterbury are actively looking for ways to work together with our wider community for the benefit of the vulnerable in the city of Windsor. The project with Street Angels is just the beginning. We continue to search for other ways to utilize our building for outreach efforts and to fulfil our call to love all as Christ loves all.
Rev. Paul Poolton is the rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Windsor.