Talbot Street Christian Reformed Church in London, Ontario, has partnered with a local street ministry to create community for the most vulnerable people in London’s downtown. Working with Sanctuary London, the church hosts a drop-in program called The Mess, in which community members of all social stripes enjoy coffee, games, and fellowship, share an evening meal, and then wrap up the evening with creative programs.
The name plays on the idea of a “mess” as a meal served to many, but also recognizes the reality of messes often made in creative activity and in relationships.
The partnership and its resulting programs—The Mess, a Monday lunch and Bible study, and informal worship services on Sunday nights—are an outworking of the church’s goal “to be a church in downtown for downtown.”
The ministries have been working together for several years and take very seriously their mandate to reach out to their community: “We agree that it is the will of God to share our blessings with those who have less. Yet we also understand that it is possible through friendship to allow those with less to share their unique blessings with us.”
The hope is that the ministries can move beyond serving; those with street experience are referred to simply as “friends,” and all of the 60 to 80 people who attend each week are encouraged to take ownership of the program.
Herb Bax of Talbot Street Church reflected, “Over time . . . you develop relationships that are at times both trying and rewarding. You begin to understand why [people’s] lives are often compromised as their life stories slowly and sometimes painfully unfold over a game of cards before the meal, over a cup of coffee, peeling potatoes, or washing dishes. Yet in all of the pain we see the glimmers of hidden talents; often a true desire to help others and their unique understanding of community. . . . The opportunity to share Christ’s love with each other is what The Mess is all about.”