Celebrating 50 years of San Francisco Night Ministry

On Sunday, November 16, over 300 people filled Grace Cathedral for a special Service of Thanksgiving for 50 years of service by the San Francisco Night Ministry. This unique service was broken into three specific parts: darkness, the night shift, and dawn. During each part of the service, more light was introduced to the cathedral and the people were reminded that “The light shines in the darkness.”

The service began with the congregation informally gathered around the font. The Rev. Lucy Kolin, pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Oakland, began by describing the various lights that shine in the darkness of San Francisco — from headlights to the light night ministers bring to places of darkness. After an introduction from night minister, the Rev. Lyle Beckman, author Anne Lamott gave a meditation on how humans experience darkness not only with their eyes, but also in their hearts. She offered hope that the best source of light in that darkness is other people. 

Following Lamott’s reflection at the font, a candle moved from the font to the front of the cathedral, with the assembly following singing Amazing Grace. The choir Volti provided musical leadership and performances throughout the service, and the performance ensemble WingIt offered reflections — in music and dance — on Lamott’s meditations. 

During the second part of the service, called the night shift, more candles were lit, and the Rev. Lyle Beckman shared a history of the Night Ministry and a list of the services it provides to people on the streets. Beckman shared, “Last year the Night Ministry engaged in over 20,000 conversations, served over 9,500 meals, and provided hundreds of emergency interventions.” Beckman ended by bidding prayer for all the people encountered in the evening.

The Rev. Eric Metoyer, associate for congregational ministries, Diocese of California, and the Rev. Steve Harms, pastor, Peace Lutheran Church, Danville, bid prayer specifically, praying in general for those in ministry, those in power, and asking for blessings of gifts, and times of meditation. The prayers also included specific prayers for people met in the evening: taxi drivers, street sweepers, recyclers, bartenders, entertainers, and those with insomnia, among many others.

After the prayers, an offering was collected for the work of the Night Ministry. During the offering, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence passed out small flashlights for use later in the service. After Lamott’s final meditation, as Volti sang Bridge Over Trouble Waters, three groups assembled in front of the altar to give the final blessing. 

Representatives of the people served by the Night Ministry blessed representatives and dignitaries who attended to honor and celebrate the work of the Night Ministry. Those dignitaries, along with those served by the Night Ministry, in turn blessed all present who work with Night Ministry. Finally, the three groups together blessed the entire congregation asking that God fill the congregation with all joy and peace that they may walk in the light forever. After the prayer for walking in light, the congregation was invited to turn their flashlights on — to let their light shine in Grace Cathedral and out in the world — while joining Volti in singing This little light of mine. 

A reception followed the service in Gresham Hall, where Anne Lamott signed books. In addition books about the Night Ministry were available for sale, as was artwork. More information about the books is available at www.sfnightministry.org, where donations are also accepted. Additional photos of the service are available at on Facebook here.