Ecclesia - Called out
Ecclesia is both a church and a ministry. The name leaves no room for interpretation. Although it was not founded until June of 2006, Ecclesia’s formation began more than three years earlier when, on the morning of February 7, 2003, Steve Ruelke met a homeless man pushing a shopping cart filled with bottles and cans down Newburgh’s Liberty Street. Something deep within called to him telling him that he was to serve the marginalized, the abandoned, the thrown away, and oppressed people in the City of Newburgh. Ruth Stillabower understood the vision and the call and when the pair married in 2004, they sold everything they had and moved into the neighborhood where they began to work the vision, getting to know street people and helping to launch an overnight shelter where homeless friends could spend the night in safety.
Then came June 2006 when, two months after Steve's ordination in the United Church of Christ, Ecclesia was incorporated. The vision was and is simple – to live a transformational ministry of mutual learning, reconciliation and healing as we serve the spiritual needs of homeless and otherwise marginalized women and men, creating community in the City of Newburgh. Doing that means seeing God in the face of the other, loving them and respecting their dignity as children of God; conducting prayer and Eucharistic services each Sunday and major holy days; offering baptisms, marriages, memorials, spiritual direction and pastoral care; conduct other street ministries such as prayer, anointing, spiritual and physical healing, and offering other services and programs through which members of the community can be empowered.
Ecclesia held its first service in a vacant lot next to an overnight shelter on Johnston Street. About a dozen people gathered; homeless and non-homeless singing, reading, reflecting, and celebrating the Eucharist together around a table where all are welcome.
What began as a street service has expanded over the years to include:
Ecclesia House, A ten-bed transitional housing facility serving women. Its mission is To provide a safe, stable, hopeful, and welcoming transitional community where a woman is treated with dignity and respect, is encouraged to accept
responsibility for herself and others, and afforded the opportunity gain the confidence needed to move on to permanent housing. It has served nearly 100 women since it opened in 2011.
Our House, a seven-day-a-week drop-in center serving homeless persons. We offer everything from a cup of coffee and the use of the phone to help with paperwork to a connection with housing opportunities to a ride to the Middletown Addiction Crisis Center and the beginning of a new life. We offer dinner on the two Wednesdays of the Month and all the Thursdays of the month when there is no place for a homeless person to get a meal. We also serve as overflow for the Newburgh Ministry’s shelter taking as many as six persons on any given night.
The Hope Center, home to an intentional community, Center for Subversive Theology, Center for Peace and Justice, a Women’s Center, Homeless Respite Care, and a variety of other programs and activities that respond to the direct, expressed needs/desires of the community in which it is located. This project is a year old and has a long way to go before it is fully operational.
Yet, no matter what we do, the heart of our work is the Sunday afternoon sidewalk service. And, the heart of that service is the Eucharist where we can really know – if only for a moment – that each one of us, no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, is God’s Beloved. The Eucharist always has been at the heart of what we do. It always will be.
To live a transformational ministry of mutual learning reconciliation and healing as we serve the spiritual needs of homeless and otherwise marginalized women and men, creating community in the City of Newburgh.
Board of Directors
Rev. David Gregory, Secretary
Janet Horan, Treasurer
Rev. Steve Ruelke, President
John Schoonmaker, Vice-President
Worship is at the center of Ecclesia’s ministry. The Eucharist at the center of our worship. Each Sunday, rain or shine, people from all walks of life gather in the sidewalk at 85 Grand Street to explore their relationship with God and to come to a table where all are welcome.