Starting With A Prayer

October 07, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

How many ministers does it take to bless one bathroom in a mission center? A dozen, all laughing.

"It's like a fraternity party," said one clergyman in a tight spot between a large old bathtub and the wall. "Let's see how many we can squeeze in."

The pastors prayed, "Bathe us with your grace, that our lives may give witness to the goodness of your creation."

Kathy Brown, director of the Shepherd's Staff mission for needy people, invited the ministers to join in the blessings for each room before the center reopened yesterday at its new location in Westminster.

"You would be surprised how many people don't have a place to bathe," she said. "This will be a humble but important outreach."

Gentle humor took its place among the prayers for the success of Shepherd's Staff.

"We take our work seriously, but there is time for lightness of heart," said the Rev. Mark Wadel, president of the Westminster Ministerium, a group of 40 churches that support the ecumenical crisis center.

Mr. Wadel began the service with a prayer to "enable those who work here and come here to be the Lord's light in the world."

In the Shepherd's Store, stocked with racks of free clothing, the Rev. David Helfrich, who wrote all the prayers, said, "Simple things like clothing and toys can be building blocks of the kingdom of God."

The group moved from room to room in the two-story house at 30 Carroll St.

In a month, the staff has painted, scrubbed and polished every square foot of space.

In the basement, Ms. Brown added a brief petition to the Lord for a plumber to hook up the donated washer and dryer.

"I have an inside line on a pipe organ," said the Rev. Keith Hardy. "But I have to pay the only plumber I know."

The Rev. Arthur Valenzano considered the need for a heavy-duty blessing of Ms. Brown's new office: "I guess we will be here a while. Do you want incense and holy water?"

"Just bless it good," Ms. Brown said.

Father Valenzano prayed that Ms. Brown "might be the face of God to those she touches."

The pastors formed a circle in the yard, where Ms. Brown envisions "wonderful things like cookouts, outdoor Bible school, evening hymn sings and a vegetable garden."

A minister who hinted good-naturedly that the grounds needed work was invited to do yard duty.

"Bring your rake or your bulldozer on Oct. 21," Ms. Brown said. "We are having a cleanup day."

Near the alley behind the property, she pointed to a makeshift shelter where "someone obviously slept." She wants to turn that space into a peace garden.

"We want a quiet, restful place where people can stay and reflect or pray," she said. "We won't shoo anyone away."

Shepherd's Staff recently moved to the house, which Grace Lutheran leases for a token donation, from three rooms on Main Street next to Westminster United Methodist Church.

The pastors said the Lord's Prayer and ended the service with, "The Lord watch over our going out and our coming in, from this time forth and forever more."

As they left, two young mothers with children in strollers came into the building.

"We are single mothers and we really can use the clothing here for our children," said one. "It is a wonderful place."

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