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by Amy Gutierrez

Published on Sep 15, 2015

What started in June as a project to teach my daughter and her friends how to cook soup became so much more! With God's grace and blessings, it blossomed and grew into a rich and generous opportunity for believers and non-believers to come together and demonstrate goodness and caring and serve the homeless in San Francisco. And, along the way, we were touched and grew thanks to the wisdom of those in the City. Isn't that what this journey is all about? All of us, regardless of faith or background, reaching out to help each other live a better life?

Every day, life presents opportunities to help someone in need. At first glance, the video may appear to be only about helping the homeless. After all, every night for the past 50 years, San Francisco Night Ministry has provided support ministers who walk the streets from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., offering face-to-face conversations to those who are lonely, anxious and afraid. In this video, those served included the 80 homeless people who enjoyed a warm cup of soup following the bilingual English-Spanish Open Cathedral service, highlighting a small portion of the over 10,000 meals served annually by the organization.

Read full article -Let it Shine story

 

 

Laura RolenFor the first time in 14 years, the San Francisco Night Ministry has a new Coordinator of Crisis Line Counselors. In February,Laura Rolen took over from Brother Jude Hill, who has retired after serving as Coordinator since 2001.

The 47 volunteers who currently serve on the Night Ministry's phone lines, along with the Night Ministers from the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., provide vital comfort, referrals, and a compassionate presence for troubled people in the middle of the night when worries can be most powerful.

Laura holds a BA in Psychology and Human Services from the University of Tennessee; she earned a Masters in Psychology with a minor in Special Education from Radford University in Virginia; and she squeezed in an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology before topping it all with a PhD in Family and Child Development from Virginia Tech in 1995.

She developed counseling skills early on in her career, as a school psychologist in Virginia. She decided to leave the east coast with her then 15-year-old son, and packed up their two dogs, a corn snake and turtle, and then headed west. "We took all those critters across country: she says, revealing her spunk. Mother and son stopped in California and settled in the Bay Area for good in 2011. "I like urban and small town - both," she declares. And she likes Crisis Line Counseling.

What does she find appealing about it? Many aspects of the program benefit callers, she points out. It is available when people are lonely at night and accessible to people who rarely leave their homes. "People who would not go to therapy or to a counselor can be reached," she says, "People don't need to make an appointment, they can call whenever they want during phone line hours. "It gives people a chance to receive counseling on their own terms," she adds. "They can just decide not to call - or they can hang up." Some people are comforted just by knowing we are there, she notes, judging from the many repeat callers.

Laura came to the Night Ministry in the fall of 2014 as a student in the Clinical Pastoral Education program. She learned about the CPE program from the Pacific School of Religion where she was studying for a Master of Theological Studies, which she earned in May of 2014. The CPE program requires students to spend time as Crisis Line Counselors. She took to nighttime phone counseling Night Ministry-style right away. "I really like that we have a lot of flexibility in our work," she says. "Crisis Line Counselors can use their own creativity speaking with callers. We have a lot of freedom to work in the ways that work best for us." Flexibility is a quality she values in the rest of her life, too, since she began to put her extensive education to good use by instructing others. She teaches online courses in child development and psychology for the University of Phoenix, and several other online universities.

And of course, she now trains new CLCs, running a three session series of instruction and observing and counseling the fledgling counselors. New trainees listen to experienced counselors for their first two nights of volunteering. Then during the next four times that new CLCs come in, they speak with callers themselves while experienced counselors carefully listen to them. Naturally, Laura is one of those experienced, wise, and caring people offering feedback.

As Coordinator, Laura supports the work of all CLCs by planning ongoing training sessions for all the volunteers, by coming up with topics, and arranging for pizza. During the most recent session, one that she and Night Ministry Director Lyle Beckman led together, CLCs got to know each other and shared experiences and tips on helping callers "It was an opportunity to share how they handle different kinds of callers," says Laura. "And feel more supported in the work they do."

Laura RolenFor the first time in 14 years, the San Francisco Night Ministry has a new Coordinator of Crisis Line Counselors. In February,Laura Rolen took over from Brother Jude Hill, who has retired after serving as Coordinator since 2001.

The 47 volunteers who currently serve on the Night Ministry's phone lines, along with the Night Ministers from the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., provide vital comfort, referrals, and a compassionate presence for troubled people in the middle of the night when worries can be most powerful.

Laura holds a BA in Psychology and Human Services from the University of Tennessee; she earned a Masters in Psychology with a minor in Special Education from Radford University in Virginia; and she squeezed in an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology before topping it all with a PhD in Family and Child Development from Virginia Tech in 1995.

She developed counseling skills early on in her career, as a school psychologist in Virginia. She decided to leave the east coast with her then 15-year-old son, and packed up their two dogs, a corn snake and turtle, and then headed west. "We took all those critters across country: she says, revealing her spunk. Mother and son stopped in California and settled in the Bay Area for good in 2011. "I like urban and small town - both," she declares. And she likes Crisis Line Counseling.

What does she find appealing about it? Many aspects of the program benefit callers, she points out. It is available when people are lonely at night and accessible to people who rarely leave their homes. "People who would not go to therapy or to a counselor can be reached," she says, "People don't need to make an appointment, they can call whenever they want during phone line hours. "It gives people a chance to receive counseling on their own terms," she adds. "They can just decide not to call - or they can hang up." Some people are comforted just by knowing we are there, she notes, judging from the many repeat callers.

Laura came to the Night Ministry in the fall of 2014 as a student in the Clinical Pastoral Education program. She learned about the CPE program from the Pacific School of Religion where she was studying for a Master of Theological Studies, which she earned in May of 2014. The CPE program requires students to spend time as Crisis Line Counselors. She took to nighttime phone counseling Night Ministry-style right away. "I really like that we have a lot of flexibility in our work," she says. "Crisis Line Counselors can use their own creativity speaking with callers. We have a lot of freedom to work in the ways that work best for us." Flexibility is a quality she values in the rest of her life, too, since she began to put her extensive education to good use by instructing others. She teaches online courses in child development and psychology for the University of Phoenix, and several other online universities.

And of course, she now trains new CLCs, running a three session series of instruction and observing and counseling the fledgling counselors. New trainees listen to experienced counselors for their first two nights of volunteering. Then during the next four times that new CLCs come in, they speak with callers themselves while experienced counselors carefully listen to them. Naturally, Laura is one of those experienced, wise, and caring people offering feedback.

As Coordinator, Laura supports the work of all CLCs by planning ongoing training sessions for all the volunteers, by coming up with topics, and arranging for pizza. During the most recent session, one that she and Night Ministry Director Lyle Beckman led together, CLCs got to know each other and shared experiences and tips on helping callers "It was an opportunity to share how they handle different kinds of callers," says Laura. "And feel more supported in the work they do."

San Francisco Night Ministry has published two books. One is a special edition of the memoir written by Donald Stuart, the first Night Minister. The other is a book for children written by Diana Wheeler, a current Assistant Night Minister and illustrated by artist Joey McGuire.

I'm Listening as Fast as I can
The Night Ministry in San Francisco

Price $19.95    You may purchase copies directly from Seattle Book Company with this link

Listening

By Donald E. Stuart

Donald E. Stuart’s book I’m Listening as Fast as I Can has touched the hearts of many since it was first published in 2003, and the Night Ministry is pleased to make this edition available, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Night Ministry in San Francisco. The book offers a vivid and valuable glimpse into the nightlife of San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s and of the “people of the night.”  In story after story, Stuart shows how he and the Night Ministry staff and volunteers responded to those who were facing difficult trials or crises in their lives. This book also shows the power of community, compassion and hope.  The 50th Anniversary edition augments Don Stuart's memoir of ministry on the gritty streets with profiles of each of the four Night Ministers who have served since 1964. It also describes the scope of current Night Ministry programs and presents historical highlights of the organization since its inception. 

About the Author

Don Stuart

The Rev. Donald Stuart, founder of the Night Ministry in San Francisco and its director from 1964 to 1976, died on March 5, 2014, at 91. Called by the ecumenical Council of Churches to explore a new ministry to a growing number of "night people" in San Francisco, Stuart left his position as a pastor of the United Church of Christ in Lincoln, Nebraska and moved to San Francisco to minister to teenage runaways, homeless families, transients, hustlers, alcoholics, prostitutes, drug addicts, and gay refugees.

 

 

 


In the Middle of the Night
A Story About the San Francisco Night Ministry

Price $29.95   You may purchase copies directly from Seattle Book Company with this link

Written by Diana Wheeler and Illustrated by Joey McGuire

In the Middle of the Night is a story for children in ten parts, each lavishly illustrated, depicting people who are awake at night.   It also relates how caring ministers, who are also awake, talk or visit with them if they are lonely, sad or afraid.  It reminds us that all people are important and loveable regardless of when they are awake, or where they live, or what they do, and it shows the power of compassion. A section with topics for family conversation inspires a deeper understanding of why we need to be available for people at all times, especially in the middle of the night.

About the Author

Diana Wheeler

The Rev. Diana Wheeler, a native San Franciscan and an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church, has worked with San Francisco Night Ministry since 2008. She has been teaching young children for 25 years.

 

 

 

 

About the Illustrator

Joey McGuire

Joey McGuire is a performer, visual artist, and professional makeup artist. He lives in San Francisco, but works all over the United States.

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