By Rev. Shirley Bowen, Executive Director/Chaplain
Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Biddeford
During last week’s Diocesan Convention a great question was asked from the floor, and from several individuals along the way, “What are the Jubilee Centers?”
Could you answer the question?
Did you know we have three in the Diocese of Maine?
Here is a brief primer to bring everyone up to speed on one of the many varieties of ministry happening in our state.
Jubilee Ministries are one of several ministries that fall under Domestic Poverty Initiatives, which are part of Justice and Advocacy Ministries of The Episcopal Church (TEC). Approved by General Convention in 1982 and establishing eight Jubilee Ministry sites in 1983, the Jubilee movement has now grown to more than 600 ministries.
Resolution A080, which established Jubilee Ministry, did so as “a ministry of joint discipleship in Christ with poor and oppressed people, wherever they are found, to meet basic human needs and to build a just society,” concluding that this “is at the heart of the mission of the church.” (TEC website, “30 Years of Jubilee Ministry”).
Although funding for Jubilee ministries at the national level has declined, there is still the opportunity to receive small grants (Seeds of Hope received one in 2015) and to receive support and encouragement from TEC staff. The Jubilee Ministry of the Episcopal Church Facebook page helps our ministries share our stories, programs, and dreams for a more just nation.
Trinity Jubilee Center’s founder and ministry partner Trinity Church donates its entire ground floor to TJC ministry serving a diverse underserved population by providing day shelter, hot meals, health clinic, food pantry, Resource center, and Refugee Services. TJC’s long-time benefactors are Christ Church in Exeter, New Hampshire and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Darien, Connecticut. Local Episcopal and Protestant churches, Bates College, St. Mary’s and CMMC hospitals all provide regular donations of food and funds. Program funding is provided by corporate, governmental, and charitable grants and individual gifts.
Seeds of Hope, also a Mission Enterprise Zone of TEC, partners with five southern Maine Episcopal congregations and three other community churches to serve its community’s unemployed/underemployed, variously-disabled residents, seniors on fixed incomes and recently incarcerated. We offer breakfast/lunch, free clothing, educational programs, warming and cooling center, free flu shots and health clinics, non-food essentials pantry, and a staffed Career Resource Center. Primary funding is from local businesses, city and federal government, service organizations, foundations and individuals.
St. Elizabeth’s is hosted by the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and supported by eight area Episcopal congregations. Offering non-food items that are not covered by food stamps yet are very costly to a family’s budget, free clothing, back to school back-packs and resource referrals, St. Elizabeth’s serves a very diverse clientele and receives additional outside funding through grants and gifts.
All three operate on the foundational principles of mercy and justice – meeting immediate need when possible and striving to help break barriers that contribute to poverty, isolation and despair. The common element in each of these ministries is the forging of community that is counter-cultural: the commitment to building relationships with those we serve so that our work is a shared partnership of mutual respect and dignity. Our work is along-side the poor, not to or for the poor. Our commitment of seeking and serving Christ in all people compels us to welcome all manner of stranger until there are no more strangers.
In her 2010 address to the “Called to Serve” Domestic Poverty Conference, the Presiding Bishop stated, “We’re here to do justice, and love mercy. We’re here to walk humbly with God and bring good news to the poor. That good news of justice and mercy looks like the ancient visions of the commonweal of God where everyone has enough to eat, no one goes thirsty or homeless, all have access to meaningful employment and health care, the wealthy and powerful do not exploit the weak, and no one studies war any more. It includes the work of building community and caring for the earth, both of which are essential to the health of a spiritually rooted person, in right relationship with God and neighbor.” (TEC website, “Called to Serve”)
Maine’s Jubilee Ministry Centers were initiated as an outpouring of compassion of Episcopal parishes for the communities they serve. They are a positive reflection of the Baptismal Covenant which grounds our Church and calls us to action. We invite you to get to know us better. We would love to hear from you.
Each Jubilee ministry site is very different in the programs and services offered, basing its work on the needs of the surrounding community. I encourage you to check out the websites and other social media locations for each of these important efforts.
If you would like to take a look at what Jubilee Centers are doing across the country, check out the links below: