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Lighten the Darkness, Rekindle the Hope
-- the Night Ministry motto

by The Rev. Lyle Beckman

Often people will ask, “Will there ever be a time when the services of the Night Ministry will not be needed?”  While our prayer is that all suffering disappear, and peace and joy reign for all of God’s children, the reality is that people will always face difficult times, particularly at night.  It is precisely for those who are in trouble, lonely, anxious, afraid, sick, or grieving at night that the Night Ministry was called into being, and why we continue our work today.  We serve a valuable role as the Church’s Night Shift, and have had a powerful impact on the lives of thousands of people each year.

We believe that our work helps to make San Francisco a city that is healthier, safer, and more stable for all who live and work here. We help to bridge the gap between the times when social services are available. We offer to build healthy life-affirming communities and neighborhoods. We offer companionship to those who are lonely and isolated. We attend to the mental and physical needs of those who are compromised. We provide harm reduction for those at risk to themselves and others. And we encounter and assist many of the most vulnerable, who fall between the cracks, among even of our City’s very fine social services.

All this is provided without receiving any public funds or charging for any services. 

So, as we look into the future, what are our challenges and opportunities? 

For fifty years, the Night Ministry has remained faithful to a simple mission statement: “Our aim is to help our neighbors in great need, when their needs will not be otherwise met in the nighttime hours.” 

Our approach remains compassionate and non-judgmental. As Roman Catholic priest and professor of pastoral theology Henri J.M. Nouwen espoused in his book A Spirituality of Caregiving:

Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely and broken.  But that is not our spontaneous response to suffering.  What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it, or finding a quick cure for it.

Yet, perhaps the greatest gift is an ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer.  Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates distance and distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.

While our purpose has changed little, and while the mild weather of the City continues to be conducive to our work, much has changed in San Francisco.  From the beat generation, to the summer of love, to anti-war rallies, to a growing LGBTQ presence in the 1960s through the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, earthquakes, economic ups and downs, the dot com booms and busts and with a growing population of people who struggle with poverty, homelessness and mental illness in the 2000s, San Francisco has seen many changes in culture, politics, economics, and population.  One challenge for the Night Ministry will be to continue to meet the needs of the people at night in a city that is always changing.

Another challenge for us is finding the resources to maintain and grow the ministry.  In the early days we received funds that came directly from church bodies/judicatories. When that stopped, congregations and inpidual contributors belonging to churches stepped in to support us. So for most of our history, our support has come from the Christian religious community. A few private foundations have sometimes given grants.  We continue to sponsor fundraising events including galas, auctions, and concerts, featuring such performers as folk legend Joan Baez and jazz singer Wesla Whitfield. Other non-profit organizations make us a beneficiary.

Now, one of the great opportunities we have in the future is to continue to nurture that solid relationship with the Christian community but also to look for support from non-Christians, social organizations, foundations, and the corporate world. 

We would love to grow the number of people we have on staff.  From the early days of the Night Ministry through the early 2000s, on a typical night there would be one Night Minister and one Crisis Line Counselor on duty. Now, we draw from three full-time and eight part-time Night Ministers, and 45 Crisis Line Counselors. Simply put, if we can have more Night Ministers on the streets and more Crisis Line Counselors on the phones, we can serve more people each night.

Another challenge -- can we move comfortably from being a Christian-based ministry to one that also includes representatives from the interfaith community who are not Christian? We will continue to seek to find ways to have a stronger interfaith presence in the future, without compromising our mission statement or changing our focus to be with those in need.

As we look to the future we want to continue to serve as a place for learning, providing field work and internship opportunities for students seeking a unique model for ministry and service.  We would love to expand our Clinical Pastoral Education program, and will be open to enter into other partnerships and collaborations that will bring resources together from around the area to better serve the people of the night. 

Mostly, we look to remain faithful to our calling to those whom we serve and for those who support us and send us out each night. 

Interns and Field Workers

Since its inception, the Night Ministry has offered opportunities for seminarians and others preparing for ministry to join our programs to learn our model of ministry, which emphasizes listening and offers a non-judgmental, compassionate presence.  These students come from the Bay Area seminaries that comprise the Graduate Theological Union, the Episcopal School for Deacons, schools of social work, and chaplaincy institutes, often receiving academic credit for their time with us.  Individuals have come from as far away as Europe. 

Clinical Pastoral Education

programsThe path to ordained ministry for many denominations requires at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education.  CPE teaches the art of communicating with people who are in stress or conflict, are hurting, suffering, or needing someone who can be present with them, listen to them, and assist them in finding ways to solve problems. CPE helps caregivers to be less anxious with people in need or crisis. It teaches them to provide quality spiritual care.

Each unit involves 400 hours of learning both in the field, and in the classroom. Most CPE programs are situated in hospitals. We started this program partnering with Stanford University Hospital under their accreditation as members of ACPE, the national organization that gives CPE accreditation. Many seminarians seek an alternative site for CPE training; the Night Ministry is an ideal setting for this kind of learning.   More details on Clinical Pastoral Education

Interfaith Memorial Service for San Francisco’s Homeless Dead

Every December on a day close to the winter solstice, people all across the country gather to remember homeless people who have died that year.  In San Francisco, this service was originally sponsored jointly by the San Francisco Network Ministries and the Coalition on Homelessness.  When Network Ministries ended its 40-year history of service to people in the Tenderloin neighborhood in 2013, we took responsibility for organizing and conducting this event, attended by 150 people, who gathered to pray, reflect, pay tribute, and remember those so easily forgotten.

SF CARES

SF CARES (San Francisco Compassion, Advocacy, Resilience, and Education Services) is a collaboration among four non-profits: the Night Ministry, St. Paulus Lutheran Church, Grace Lutheran Church, and Welcome: A Communal Response to Poverty), formed to better close gaps in serving populations that all four groups share. We have feeding programs, educational programs, and other outreach efforts such as free vision screenings, harm reduction education, and domestic violence quantification. The collaboration started in November, 2011 and offers a way for us to reach and serve people during the daytime whom we serve at night.

Sacred Space – San Francisco

Sacred Space - San Francisco is a ministry of outreach and presence with the LGBTQ+ communities, providing crisis intervention, counseling, referral services, pastoral care, support and advocacy. These are offered regularly through its sponsoring organizations: San Francisco Night Ministry, St. Aidan's Episcopal Church and Metropolitan Community Church - San Francisco, as well as through special programs such as Sacred Cocktails and Sacred Cup. Brother Karekin Yarian serves as our Minister of Sacred Space. For more information please see the Sacred Space - San Francisco website at www.sacredspacesf.org or contact Night Ministry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Other Collaborations

We cooperate with a number of other organizations on common goals. For example, we have an agreement with San Francisco Suicide Prevention to provide a framework to refer callers between our crisis lines, to cooperatively train volunteers, and to mutually support confidentiality and safety policies. We have an understanding with both WOMAN Inc. and La Casa de las Madres to provide safe transportation to a safe house for victims of domestic violence. In the wintertime, the San Francisco Interfaith Winter Shelter program provides overnight housing for homeless men; the Night Ministry sends a Night Minister to serve as an additional staffer at one of the locations, enabling an additional 40 men to be housed.

Prayers

Please remember those whom we serve and our staff of volunteers and Night Ministers in your personal prayers and in your congregation’s prayers for the Church.

Financial Support

Your financial support is vital in keeping our phone system operating and our Night Ministers on the streets.  In 2013, volunteer Crisis Line Counselors received 5,100 calls, Night Ministers engaged in 17,100 significant conversations, and we served 9,000 meals.

Night Ministry is incorporated under the laws of the State of California and is described in the Internal Revenue Code 501 [c][3] as a not-for-profit organization.  Our Employer Identification number is 94-3122524.

Van Project

We are seeking a van to bring more support to those in need.  For more details, read about the project.

Planned Giving

Consider a lasting gift by remembering Night Ministry in your estate planning and long-range financial planning. read more on planned giving

 

Our income in 2013 came in the following ways:
40 % – Individual donations
20 % – Fall Benefit and other fundraising events
15 % – Grants and matching gifts
15 % – Other sources (community fundraising etc.)
10 % – Congregations and religious institutions

Volunteer

Consider becoming a Crisis Line Counselor or a member of our “Daytime Volunteer Corps” which assists with mailings, promotions, Fall Benefit set up, and at other times as needed.  Email us for more information – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Advocate

Become involved with advocacy efforts in your community around the issues of homelessness, rent control, affordable housing, mental health, addiction, needs of the disabled, and rights of the poor, among others.

Hospitality

Organize a group and provide lunch after Open Cathedral – Civic Center.  We currently gather 59 to 100 for worship and feed 100 to 150 people each week. To learn more read about Open Cathedral Hospitality.

Donate

We provide night-time distribution of certain items if and when we have them.  Consider organizing a drive in your congregation or club for: socks (new white cotton), hats, gloves, scarves, coats (men’s mostly), blankets, sleeping bags, toiletries, nutrition bars, bottles of water, and bibles.  Also useful are gift certificates to fast food restaurants and grocery stores.

Community Thrift Store

We are a partner with Community Thrift (623 Valencia St. at 18th St. in San Francisco).   Donations made in our name benefit us directly. Be sure to use Code #194 when donating for Night Ministry. Call 415-861-4910 or go to www.communitythriftsf.org for more info.

“Walk-Arounds”

Come and join the Night Ministers for an evening and experience firsthand the ministry to our lonely, anxious and forgotten sisters and brothers.  Call the office at 415-935-7862 in advance to schedule a night walk.

Promote

Help us share the word about Night Ministry so that everyone who needs a word of comfort and hope at night knows how to reach us.

Invite

Invite one of our staff members, Governing Board members, or volunteers to lead an adult forum, to talk to your congregation, your civic organization, or group.

 

 

Welcome the new Night Ministry Executive Team

 

An event was held on November 10 to welcome the new Night Ministry Executive Team, Rev. Tom Carter, Executive Director and Rev. Valerie McEntee, Night Minister. 

 

 

Two recent events were held to celebrate Lyle's time as Night Minister as he moves into retirement, a tea at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, and a Karaoke Night at the Encore Karaoke Lounge. Photos: Click on any photo to see the slideshow.

 

 

 

 


photo courtesy of OurTownSf.org

 

The members of the Governing Board of the San Francisco Night Ministry
hosted their Fall Gala under the theme

Aloha Makahiki (A Gathering of Love) 

It was a wonderful evening full of fun, food and friendship benefiting the good work of the San Francisco Night Ministry. 
Thank you to all who supported this event.

 

 


Touch of the Irish

A beautiful San Francisco afternoon and the historic St. Mary's Lutheran Church was the setting for a benefit concert, Touch of the Irish.  Performers were from the San Francisco Opera Chorus and special guests.  They included Corey Head, Theresa Cardinale, Pamela Hicks, John-Elliot Kirk, Elfrieda Langemann, Katherine McKee, Keith Perry, Jere Torkelsen and pianist James Meredith.

 


 

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