"Sanctuary of Dignity and Hope" by Laura Shatzer

Every day on my commute during Life Together, I would get off at Park Street station and head up the hill toward the Statehouse, to the Massachusetts Council of Churches office. I couldn’t have imagined early in that year that two years later I would be a street minister on the Boston Common. My year with Life Together was important in my journey because of what I discovered about myself: I wasn’t called primarily to the justice and advocacy work I did that year, behind a desk and at the Statehouse. Rather, I felt led to directly accompany people in their struggles.

In my role as Associate Pastor and Chaplain of common cathedral – a church especially for those experiencing homelessness – I get to meet some of the most courageous, resourceful, and deeply faithful people in Boston. I lead worship outdoors every Sunday, and then I travel indoors to the McInnis House, a respite facility of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless. There, I lead a worship service and offer spiritual care throughout the week. On Wednesdays, I help run common art, our open art studio. I find people in hospitals, in prison, and on the streets. Through our CityReach immersion program, I facilitate relationship-building between suburban youth and our unhoused and formerly unhoused staff.

I am confronted daily with the terrible lack of affordable housing and support for those navigating addiction and mental illness in Massachusetts. While this system – and our society-at-large – often dehumanizes and degrades people who live on the streets and in shelters, common cathedral is a sanctuary of dignity and hope. My role is not to try to fix people or the broken system, but to see people and to love them. To remind them that they matter. That they are worth being seen and loved. That they are God’s beloved.

In Life Together, I began to think about church as a school of love. I am so blessed because my community teaches me more about Christ’s love every day. They teach me about my own need, my own weakness and struggle. Every time my heart breaks, it also swells with love.