Sunday, 18 March 2012

Resurrection House and Anno Swain - a minister at and from St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key, FL

Some 22 years ago Bob and Elaine Kilonen were leaving an evening meeting at Sarasota’s Church of the Redeemer (Episcopal).

As they walked out of the Church the irrigation sprinklers sprang into use.

A woman emerged from the shrubs- soaked to the skin. She was homeless.  The shrubbery around Redeemer was her regular sleeping place.

Bob and Elaine arranged for this woman to have a bed for the night in a local motel.

That was good for her.  It was even better for Elaine and Bob, for it made them think about the needs of Sarasota’s homeless people, and the challenge of the gospel of Jesus.

Thus was born “Resurrection House”, a day shelter for homeless people.

I am the honorary chaplain there.

At Res House we provide showers, laundry, food, clothing, basic medical care (thanks to two retired physicians), re-habilitated bicycles for those who have found work, and counselling towards employment and/or accommodation.

Most of all we offer friendship, a listening ear, a lack of judgment, an affirmation of human dignity, and the chance for homeless people to pray without being preached at.

Res. House has a budget of $600,000 per annum. That budget is supported by 33 religious bodies and many other local charities, individuals, and businesses.

We receive not one penny from city, county, state or federal coffers.

Last Thursday the staff at Res. House organised a “Volunteer Appreciation Dinner”.   I rarely attend such events, but was “drawn” to this one.

The food was good (thanks to Caragiulos Restaurant).

I was seated with most congenial fellow-volunteers.

I rejoiced to see that some long term volunteers were honoured, including St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key member Cynthia Weston (15 years). Cynthia was present at the dinner.  She was utterly surprised to be recognised and honoured.

Another St. Boniface honouree was the fabulous Anno Swain.  She has ministered as a volunteer at Res. House for 22 years.

Wait a minute – that means that Anno has been part of this ministry with homeless people since its inception. Wow!

It  happens that when I am in a pew at St. B’s I always sit with Anno Swain and her blessed and beloved husband Adrian.

And it also so happened that Anno was not present for the dinner at which she was honoured.

So I retrieved her “certificate of appreciation”, and with the encouragement and blessing of St. B’s interim Rector (Dean Taylor) arranged for it to be presented to her at the 9:00 a.m. Eucharist this morning,

Dean and I were cunning, and we “snuck up” this recognition of Anno and her ministry. We took her by surprise at announcement time.

It was a wonderful moment.  It was a moment which brought our congregation to its feet in a glorious affirmation of the ministry of Anno Swain -  a beloved sister in Christ,  a “teacher by example” and a mentor to so many of us.

Amen.  

And an Alleluia – even in  Lent.

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