Blessing every nook and cranny

Charity: Ministers again bestow prayers on Shepherd's Staff site.


October 27, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Amid fervent prayers, gentle banter and sincere gratitude, about 25 clerics rededicated the Westminster home of an outreach ministry yesterday.

Minutes before the blessing that marked the 10th anniversary of Shepherd's Staff's having a home, its director, Kathy Brown, called across the parking lot to a late arrival who carried an oversized roll of papers resembling engineering plats.

"Are you bringing me plans for a new building?" Brown asked. "I need a warehouse and maybe another site. Why not after 15 years?"

Tim Thomas, pastor of Awesome God Christian Fellowship in Westminster, was delivering papers to a colleague but was not surprised at Brown's request.

"No one ever accused Kathy of thinking small," Thomas said.

Since she started Shepherd's Staff 15 years ago, Brown estimates the charity, which is sponsored by the Westminster Ministerium, has helped 75,000 people with everything from rent money to laundry facilities.

"This is a wonderful ministry that clothes the poor and feeds the hungry," said the Rev. Anne Durboraw of St. Luke's Lutheran Church near Union Bridge. "We are seeing more and more of the working poor in America. When they need help, this is the place they can turn to."

In 1994, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church provided the charity with a 10-room house near the city's downtown. At Brown's invitation, a dozen pastors blessed the building 10 years ago. Several returned and joined many others for the reblessing yesterday.

"I am proud of all the hard work this place does for the less fortunate who find their way to 30 Carroll St.," said the Rev. David Helfrich, pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, as he accepted a proclamation and a framed graphic of a lone figure on a park bench from Westminster Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff.

"This is the one place where anyone in need can find short-term aid and pathways to social and economic independence," Dayhoff said.

Mark Wadel, pastor of Lighthouse Worship Center in Westminster, began the prayers with a blessing of the back yard. In warmer months, Brown often organizes cookouts and socials on the shady grounds.

"Shepherd's Staff has ministered to a lot of people," Wadel said. "It has met emergency crises for all our churches. It has met the needs of people who slip through the cracks with concerted effort, more efficiency and much better care."

The crowd then stopped to pray on all three levels and in every room of the house. Because the ministry uses every available inch of space, Brown made sure her clerical guests did not overlook any area.

The pastors blessed the supplies shelved in the basement, the clothing donations that fill a shed and the equipment in the upstairs offices. The ministers offered petitions for Brown and her staff, for the needy who come to the center daily and for the future of the center, which needs room to expand.

"We want to crowd the inside with blessings," said the Rev. David Highfield, president of the ministerium.

Velma Green, a volunteer who was praised for the compassion she extends to the charity's clients, said, "I will take all the blessings you can give."

The Rev. Ron Fisher of Ascension Episcopal Church said every pastor in the room could recall conversations with Green as they tried to find help for needy parishioners. He prayed for "those who share their life stories in this space" and for those who listen to them.

Wadel recalled squeezing into the center's only bathroom with about a dozen other people to bless the space a decade ago. Even more crammed into the smallest room in the house yesterday, and a few stood in the claw-footed tub. They prayed for those who need a change of clothing and a place to bathe.

"We have had a good bit of fun joking about the bathroom, but it is as important as any room in this house," said the Rev. Walt Peters of First Presbyterian Church of Westminster. "It is no joke to be on the streets without a bathroom."

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