As a social worker working among those experiencing homelessness and poverty, Margaret Kelly knew she was doing important work, but she couldn’t help feel as if her clients still had unmet needs.
“I didn’t feel like I could bring hope to people,” she says.
Margaret could arrange for people to sign up to receive social services or to be put on a housing list. And “while those are important things” that “do give hope, they don’t provide a bright future; there’s no promise of new life,” she says.
So when Margaret graduated in 2012 from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., one of eight ELCA seminaries, and took a position as the mission developer and pastor at Shobi’s Table, an ELCA synodically authorized worshiping community in St. Paul, she saw it as an opportunity to help people on a deeper level.
“Shobi’s Table comes out of a wellness center that First Lutheran Church in St. Paul operates,” Margaret explains. “The wellness center began with just giving space to community and initially providing some basic health and wellness services.”
Shobi’s Table provides a needed spiritual component to the wellness center’s offerings. As pastor, Margaret leads services on Thursday nights. She also holds “pastor office hours” at a homeless shelter in downtown St. Paul, where she sits and talks with those in need of a prayer or a blessing.
“People are very willing to praise God for the things that are going well in their lives,” she says. They’ll also talk “about relationships with family and friends and how that works and what this looks like and how they can be mended and supported.”
Margaret remembers a recent trip to the shelter, someone who didn’t have a scheduled visit approached her saying, “You’re a pastor right? Can you do a blessing for me? Right here?” Margaret laid her hands on the man. “We just prayed in the middle of the doorway. He had just started a new job, and we were praying for transportation for him.”
“What’s pretty astounding is that I’ve done it enough times where people are starting to recognize me,” Margaret continues. “People are saying, ‘Hey, that’s that pastor who hangs out here.’”
“As a social worker, I didn’t feel like I could bring hope to people,” she continues. “Now I feel like I can give true hope, because I have the sacraments with me.”