Bangor Maine now has an important Street Ministry! You may not have heard that Jesus has placed a new ministry within your neighborhood and your city. Amazing things are happening all around you! Are you surprised? Yes, the Bangor Street Pastors are on the streets of Bangor Maine Every Friday Night and have been for some time! Yes it is true! Look Around and Take Notice! Maybe you want to take part. This may be your calling or His calling. You may want to be part of this but you will need some training but don’t worry, it is available for the right person. Once again, your church affiliation has nothing to do with how you serve the Lord. Maybe it is part of how you are expected to be part of His Hands Ministry to the poor and suffering. Your service to God doesn’t have to take place once a week, it is expected everyday twenty four seven! Maybe you didn’t know that.
Grace United Methodist Church at 193 Union Street here in Bangor Maine has been blessed to not only be part of this important ministry but to be the Home Base! Even small churches can be part. It doesn’t require a huge congregation to do big things. It requires committed Christians to move mountains in His name.
On a typical evening in Bangor…..On this Friday, two women cross the street to approach MacLeod, Coffey and Gillespie and ask: “What’s a Street Pastor?” MacLeod, a member of North Brewer-Eddington UMC, defines Street Pastors as volunteers who “walk the streets of their community to provide practical kindness, help and a listening ear. Sometimes people just need someone to talk with them; sometimes they need a bottle of water.” “You’re being super helpful and super nice,” one woman says. “We definitely notice you guys.” Earlier, MacLeod, Coffey and Gillespie spoke with a couple who were watching a free outdoor screening of “Saturday Night Fever.” When the Street Pastors say they meet at Grace United Methodist Church and ask if they know it, the woman responds: “Everyone knows where Grace is; anybody who wants a good meal knows where Grace is.” Maintaining a relationship with law enforcement is part of the ministry. But the couple does not attend that church or any other Christian church. “I’ve actually been kicked out of churches because I didn’t fit their profile of somebody who went to church,” the man said. Asked who kicked him out, he said, “The pastor. I didn’t fit his idea of a churchgoer.” He had been homeless, he said, and had been wearing the same clothes for a couple weeks. “Maybe I did not smell all that good, but it’s Church.” The man said churchgoers make remarks characterizing poor and homeless as people as “just there for the free food. Well, if you read the Bible, how did God attract His followers? He clothed them. He fed them. He preached to them; he didn’t’ cram it down their throats.” “I am sad to hear that it was a human in a church that gave you that impression (that the homeless are unwelcome),” MacLeod said. “That was not God. … Jesus was homeless … once he started his ministry, he walked about. We should have a very special place in our hearts for those who are homeless, and God does as well.” MacLeod encouraged the couple to revisit the many “very welcoming churches” in Bangor. “We need you,” she said. Coming away from that encounter, MacLeod said: “We’ve hurt people, we as the Church; we have to stop doing that.”
The bars close at 1 a.m., and the Street Pastors head back to the church around 1:15 or so. They gather for a debriefing session and maybe a couple cookies. During the debriefing, Nicol talks about her longest encounter of the evening. On a second swing through Pickering Square where the movie was playing, Nicol approached a young man – he’s 19 – who seemed to be staring at the sky. At first she imagined he was high, but realized he was watching the spotlight from a nearby casino. She sat on the ground to talk with him. He’s homeless, he told Nicol, but resisted going to a shelter. He’d promised to protect a young woman who is also on the street this night. “He really wanted to have a conversation about how to go back to church,” Nicol said. While he did not want to share many personal details, he did say he was brought up Baptist and raised in a strict environment “that made him feel bad.” “He wanted to be able to ‘do stuff.’ I love it when younger people are like ‘I still want freedom to do stuff.’ What? Do stuff that will impact the rest of your life and you just don’t get it?” Nicol asks. Rev. Kate Nicol talks with a homeless man about returning to church. Despite his friends trying to derail and mock a talk about God, the young man “wouldn’t give up the conversation,” Nicol said. “I gave him the general theological argument that ‘no, God did not take away your (housing) voucher to teach you a lesson.’ Because that’s what he was thinking … I said ‘I don’t think that’s the way God works,’” Nicol said, and offered him this advice: “I do think if you really want help, if you actually want to change, one of the ways that can help you is to join a church, a community that supposed to be a supportive community for you. Try the ones you talked about; try different ones; try whatever really, but try something.”