Interview with Rev. Linda Taupier, Deacon
… so obviously there are children.
Q. How does the ministry called Church Without Walls address the need?
A. We meet every Sunday of the year except Easter, when we have a luncheon for the homeless at the Cathedral. But every other Sunday at noon we are in Court Square, with rotating clergy offering the Eucharist, followed by lunches prepared by different congregations.
Q. How did that ministry start?
A. It began at St. Andrews in Longmeadow, and then they expanded the ministry to other congregations. I’m on the core team, but there aren’t regular meetings because things run moothly and we get the job done! Eric Elley, a deacon out of St. Andrews, is also on the core team.
Q. How many people show up each week for Church Without Walls?
A. We have ten to fifteen people who are there almost every week. Some come and go, and some just show up for lunch. But for the most part people come and enjoy the Eucharist. Even if they stand on the periphery, they’re still hearing it. Some people aren’t homeless but they’re certainly disadvantaged.
Q. You are also core to the Big Blue Ministry—named after the blue van you take out on Tuesday evenings, also to help people who are homeless. How does that work?
A. Every week, from November to March—this year it was into April, because of the long winter—Eric and I try and figure out where homeless people are living, and connect with them to see what they need. If they tell us where they are, we’ll go to wherever they’ve set up and give them whaever they need, be it blankets, hats, coats, food, toilet paper, hygiene products—all donated by St. Andrews, the Cathedral, St. Peter’s, St. Mark’s, and even a church in North Adams.
Q. When do you start collecting for this ministry?
A. Any time there are donations I just put them in a closet at CCC, and anything that we can’t use we give to Friends of the Homeless. Anything we’re given that’s in decent shape will get used.
Q. How many people go out with you?
A. On Tuesday evenings up to four people load up the van with all the stuff we’ve stored in the Cathedral closet, and if we’ve made appointments we do those first, and then we take the van to several different places, wherever people are, one place being the bus station.
Q. Is it awkward to approach people?
A. No, because we make it very clear that we’re not the police, and we’re only there to help. We announce ourselves, even if it means knocking on a tree, because this spot is their home, and we should ask permission to come in.
Q. What if they’re in desperate need of something you don’t have?
A. Last year we found people along the river in horrific weather living under tarps, so we went to a sporting goods store and bought and took a tent out to them.
Q. How long are you out taking things to people?
A. We’re usually back to the cathedral at ten.
Q. Doing this every week—do you ever get scared, or feel burned out?
A. This has been my first hands-on, in-the-street ministry, and I’ve never been scared— I’ve never even thought about being scared! We don’t go out alone and we don’t split up. I just wish I’d been part of this much earlier. You get so much more out of it than you give. It’s an absolutely incredible experience to come across people living the way they live.
Q. Why incredible?
A. In part because of the wonderful attitudes people have. Often they’re cheerful, they invite us in, and often they say, “Will you pray with me?” So many people want to make the connection to God. It’s also a wonderful ministry because it helps us realize how truly wealthy and privileged we are, and here we have this chance to do what we can to help.
Q. Is there something that’s happened that’s particularly memorable for you?
A. One night we came across a man just sitting on the street, very drunk. Erik and I sat with this man, asked his permission to call the police, which he gave, and then he wanted to pray. He knew that he wanted to pray. Another time of the women who often comes to Church Without Walls was crying, and we found out that her husband hd had a heart attack and was at Bay State. She felt she needed to be at church, and we’re her church. Erik and I both went to the hospital and were just there for her. A few weeks later it was delightful to see them both back at Church Without Walls, grateful that they have a place to come and be fed, but also knowing we will go to them.
Q. What do you hear about the reasons people are so vulnerable, finding themselves without homes or enough to eat?
A. There isn’t a big enough safety net for people who have a mental illness, or don’t get the paycheck they need to pay the rent. One sad story is of a couple who couldn’t pay the rent and lost their children. They were living in a tent and trying to get money for an apartment so they could get their kids back.
Q. So it can be heart wrenching.
A. Something like that is very difficult. We can’t just give them money. I balance this with all of the good we can do, all of the people we can help. And I realize that God is with every one of these people. We can’t do it all. It’s only through the mercy of God that we reach the people we do, because it’s Him who is going and giving.
Q. If someone is thinking about joining either of these ministries, what would you tell them?
A. I always say to people, “Until I did this, I didn’t realize what I was missing out on. So don’t wait to do it one of these days.’ Just come do it once! Come try it. It may be something you love, or you’ll discover that you want to do something else. Just come try it!
Q. How do people find out more about all of these ministries?
A. Anybody is welcome to come talk to me. I am the Deacon for the Cathedral, and that means for everybody at the Cathedral. So I want to get to know people. My job is to bring the needs of the world to the church, and the church to the world. And I can’t do it alone. None of us can. So just say, “I’m interested. Let’s talk about it. Tell me what’s involved.” I can tell you that I am fed myself by this—I get so much back.
You can reach Linda by calling the Cathedral, or by emailing her at email@example.com.