Volunteer Steve Owens, the Rev. Jasmine Chandra, Jing Li and Monir Rahmeh practice language skills at the English café, one of several outreach activities Jasmine and Terence Chandra are involved in as part of their street ministy in Saint John.
Gisele McKnight photo
Doing ministry differently
By Gisele McKnight
Guys, do not underestimate the power of loud music. It’s what brought fellow seminary student Jasmine to Terence Chandra’s door — to complain. They’ve been together ever since.
And what a team they make! The two priests have a unique and fledgling ministry in uptown Saint John that has no building, no administration, no congregation — just street ministry called the Central Saint John Community Ministry.
“We were getting to know Saint John better and both Jas and I started to see the need for priests to devote all their time to the community,” said Terence, 36 and originally from Fredericton.
“We’re community priests — it’s a title we made up ourselves.”
The idea was planted while at Wycliffe in Toronto, where they were involved in a church called Sanctuary Ministries with Greg Paul.
“It’s a really neat church,” said Jasmine, 33. “They serve a homeless population, but they do it in a different way. They’d have a drop-in meal, but family style with food on the table.”
If you want to volunteer there, the first step is to go sit, meet and eat with the people, a more intimate setting than the traditional food line-up at a kitchen window.
“So we always wanted to do something more personal,” she said. “We wanted to do something that got us into the community and out of the four walls.”
After several years of parish work, last year they met with Bishop Claude Miller, wrote a proposal that included sharing the work and salary of one priest, got the go-ahead and left the Parish of Simonds, St. Martins and Black River to plant community roots in some of Saint John’s toughest and most vulnerable neighbourhoods.
Jasmine works Mondays and Wednesdays, Terence works Tuesdays and Thursdays and they both work Fridays, all the while sharing the care of four-year-old son, Sam.