As an interfaith chaplain to the homeless, Rev. Jeffery Logan '15 sometimes needs to lend support to those who have been incarcerated; read more below
An acupuncturist, an Interfaith street minister, and a Shakespearean actor walk into a bar. How many characters are in this scene? Actually, only one, the Rev. Jeffery Logan (ChIME 2015).
“ChIME trains people for weird kinds of ministries,” Jeff says with characteristic humor. “Because ChIME’s training is not for a settled ministry, it’s a good match for a world that's fluid, too. In ChIME you take the Internal journey first. It tears your heart open, and then you go out into the world with that ripped open heart and see what happens.”
For three years now Rev. Logan has been known as “Pastor Jeff” to hundreds of people who are homeless in Portland. Actually, Jeff says, the streets, the shelters and the soup kitchens are home to this ever-changing community of women and men, and he is their guest.
Jeff says that the homeless community is quite strong and mutually supportive in Portland. Although he is an outsider, because he’s not trying to fix people they share their stories with him – stories of shame, failure, and small triumphs. “I try to remember names, and people remember mine. It’s about mutual respect, and longevity. I just keep showing up. When it’s snowing. When it’s raining. When I don’t want to be there. And I listen.”
Over the years that Jeff has been working with Grace - Street Ministry, only a handful of the same people remain homeless in Portland. Some find housing. Some leave town. Some die in snowbanks, on park benches. Jeff offers prayers and communion, performs weddings and funerals. He gives out socks, warm hats, gloves, Dunkin’ Donuts cards, the occasional bus ticket, application fee for housing, co-pay for meds, or other low-ticket item that makes a big difference. And sometimes people seek him out to share the good news, such as “I got a place to live!” or “You got me a bus ticket to see my Mom when she was sick and she’s rallied.”
The mission of Grace-Street Ministry, co-founded by two United Church of Christ clergy in 2006, is to “offer a consistent, compassionate, pastoral presence to the homeless and marginalized in downtown Portland, Maine.” Jeff joined Grace as a ChIME intern, supervised by co-founding Pastor Mair Honan, then a ChIME teacher and now a member of ChIME’s Advisory Board.
Jeff had only been ordained a few months when he got the call to serve. Rev. Elizabeth Peterson (ChIME 2010) was leaving, and it was “moderately terrifying,” Jeff recalls, to start walking the streets on his own. But Mair reminded Jeff that ‘This isn’t about you. Just give it over to whatever your belief in the holy is. It will be interesting to see how they accept you.”
Although he loves his work, “I really can’t wait to get put out of business,” Jeff muses in response to a question about ending homelessness. “I’d love to show up and nobody’s there.” Through the Poor People’s Campaign and other social justice initiatives, Jeff bears witness to the economics of homelessness and the urgent need for affordable housing. As a rotating preacher at a Bailey Island chapel, he teaches about the gospel of Jesus the Christ, whose own ministry was to the outcasts and people on the margins of society.
With homeless people, Jeff notes, there are no distractions from the basic necessities of life --food, shelter and love. “It’s all a little twisted,” Jeff says, “but people are open to the message because they have so little else. They understand suffering, and aren’t afraid of it. Some people even say that ‘being homeless is the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s taught me compassion, understanding, and that this could happen to just about anyone.’”
“In a time of increasing poverty in the richest country in the world,” Jeff concludes, “when a full time minimum wage job doesn’t pay for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country and one in six Maine children live in poverty, there will always be work to do. Worship is easy, work is hard. Or to quote another Shakespearean actor, Edmund Kean, on his deathbed, ‘Dying is easy, comedy is hard.’ There but for the grace of God go I.”