By Paige K Slighter
Communitas Twin Cities is a missional community intentionally serving the homeless and impoverished in St Paul. For the past five years, they’ve gone OUT on the street and supported the community. That’s why Communitas has often been referred to as a “church on the street.” Now that they’ve partnered with Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church, they’re able to bring the community INSIDE and serve them in a much more relaxed and comfortable environment.
Dianna McCartan, the founder and pastor of Communitas and a Woodland Covenant Partner, was inspired to start the ministry after seeing a spotlight video about Project Home during a Woodland service. Recalling that moment she says, “Unexpectedly I began weeping deeply. I had experienced God moving in my life enough to know the Holy Spirit was placing this heart for the homeless in me.” Soon after, Dianna gathered a leadership team to solidify the vision for Communitas. They unanimously agreed that they wanted to be “a community that looked into the world with hearts that genuinely care about people,” specifically the homeless.
They started their mission by serving meals on the corner of West 7th Street and Smith Avenue in St. Paul. “We just showed up with food and hoped people would come,” Dianna says. Word spread and gradually 5 people turned into 45. During the early years, they learned a lot about the needs of their community. They started providing hygiene items, bus cards, shoes and winter clothing. Dianna recalls, “We also learned how to have fun together!”
Since last June, when they began meeting indoors, they have grown to 65-70 people. Their partnership with Saint Mark’s has been a tremendous blessing. They’ve already seen big changes in the level of engagement. They’ve been able to connect in deeper ways than ever before. Community members are no longer at the mercy of the weather, and the restroom facilities are much more convenient. People are sharing stories and discussing spiritual topics. Dianna says, “Now everyone can relax and stay awhile.”
Communitas meets one Saturday a month for a “Meal Serve.” Dianna explains that they start with a homemade meal: “We desire the meal to be something beyond ‘shelter food’ with quality ingredients. We strive to have protein, vegetables and fresh fruit.” But they are offering much more than just physical food, and when the meal is finished, announcements and fellowship follow. Then a message from the Bible is discussed. Afterward, prayer requests are shared and prayed over with occasional worship music. “There are lots of tears as God moves,” Dianna says. At the end of their time together, resources are distributed: hygiene items, laundry packets, bus cards, etc.
Dan Kent, WH teaching pastor, visited Communitas in the fall to share a message on forgiveness. He emphasized, “As followers of Christ, we need to forgive, and Jesus is the perfect example of forgiveness. It sounds absurd, but retribution ultimately fails, and grudges just wear us down.” This message really challenged the community, especially because many of them have experienced trauma. Dan was encouraged by the realness of the Communitas members: “These are incredible people with amazing stories.” The healing and authenticity continued the next month when Dianna shared her own testimony of trauma and forgiveness. She says, “The community really opened up, told their own stories and shared how they could see God at work in their own lives.”
Communitas is a place to explore faith and experience God together. In this community the homeless are loved, known and welcomed. Dianna says, “It’s also a place where members can experience the gospel being lived. There is no US and THEM—WE are all broken. We don’t have it all figured out yet, but we’re seeking God together.” We are excited to see how God continues to work through Communitas! If you’d like to learn more, Dianna will be at Woodland the weekend of February 8/9 to share during a ministry spotlight. You can visit her at the Hello Desk after service or check out information online: communitastc.org.