Partners in the work
Like their friends Joe and Amy and Larry, Ruth and Steve have followed a long and winding road to Hope.
Encouraged by the abbot of a Buddhist monastery, Steve returned to the faith of his youth after a 29-year hiatus. Fourteen years ago, he found himself in a two-year spiritual journeying program where he met Ruth. They began dating in 2003 while Steve was in his second year of seminary at Drew University and working as the assessor for the City of Newburgh.
He had a vision of a ministry serving homeless and other marginalized persons in Newburgh. She was a health inspector and shelter volunteer in Danbury, Connecticut, feeling called to a deeper connection with her Creator and a life of meaningful service. So, the couple married in 2004, sold everything they owned and bought a four-unit building in Newburgh's East End and began learning the territory, helping to start a shelter program at the Newburgh Ministry.
While Steve finished school and worked to complete other requirements for ordination in the United Church of Christ (UCC), they continued to explore their call to ministry. That's when they met Debbie Little, an Episcopal priest who had been leading worship on Boston Common since the mid-90s. Steve's visit to Common Cathedral was the clincher.
"I saw what Debbie was doing and said, 'Hey, we can do that!'"
And, so they did. Steve managed to convince the UCC that his call to service was a valid one, garnered the support of the UCC church in Middletown. In April of 2006, the church called and ordained him to be their associate pastor, paid him a dollar a year and said, "Go! Start the work in Newburgh."
Ruth and Steve shared their call with others who joined them in incorporating and launching Ecclesia Ministries of Newburgh, a ministry geared toward meeting the spiritual needs of homeless folks, in part, by hosting a Sunday
afternoon street service where "the haves and have-nots" could worship together and discover that we're all the same.
From a simple street service, Ecclesia has grown to include a drop-in center and a transitional home for women (Visit our Home Page to learn a bit more about the ministry.).
(Steve still gets his annual dollar doing whatever it is that he does and Ruth, who retired from her Danbury job three years ago, works quietly keeping it all together, spending Tuesday's helping out at the soup kitchen at St. Patrick's church and working at the drop-in center two or three days a week.)
Feeling called to do more and called to deeper spiritual
connections for themselves and their neighbors, the couple sent Steve off to study spiritual direction at a two-year program offered by the Haden Institute. He started during a very violent
year in Newburgh's life and came home from his first week-long intensive with a vision of a center for peace and justice as a logical consequence of spirit work.
It slowly dawned on them, that the dream and their deepest yearnings could only be realized in community, an intentional community of people committed to their own transformations and living out their call to love God and everyone else.
That's when the Holden Home, a former adult care facility, sort of fell in their laps. The next thing they knew Ecclesia had agreed to buy the facility, Amy and Larry Malick came to visit, Deacon Joe Sherman came on board and dozens of friends and supporters have joined the effort.