Stella’s Circle – space to connect
I am a third-year student in the Diaconal Diploma program at the Centre for Christian Studies. I currently live in St. John’s, NL. Ihave been an active member of the United Church in Newfoundland for all my life. I have a deep passion for youth and social ministry. My time at CCS has pushed me into new spaces of learning and every day I am grateful for the opportunities I get through the learning model offered at the Centre. This year am completing a social ministry placement with Stella’s Circle in St. John’s.
Stella’s Circle is a leading non-profit community organization in St. John’s, NL offering housing, training, employment and counseling services. Stella’s Circle is named after Dr. Stella Burry, a pioneering United Church diaconal social worker who founded Emmanuel House in 1945 to provide food, shelter, friendship, and counseling. Emmanuel House is still operational today within the Stella’s Circle organization as a residential counseling centre for adults working on their social and emotional challenges. Stella’s Circle works to transforms lives by offering Real Homes, Real Help and Real Work to people who face barriers from fully participation in their community. These barriers include mental illness, addictions, trauma, criminal justice involvement, homelessness and long periods of unemployment.
In my time with Stella’s Circle I have worked mostly with Housing and Employment Services. My role is to provide programming that offers space for spirituality, creativity, and community. I work with a number of groups: Quiet Space, Card Marking, Drumming Group, St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dogs, and the Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir. I enjoy all the groups and the intentional spaces that they offer the community,
Quiet Space is offered bi-weekly, as much as scheduling will allowWe have various activities in the room including meditation resources, mandalas, reading, crosswords, Lego and painting supplies. There is reflective music, and, apart from a small amount of conversation between individuals about their days, the space stays relatively quiet. There is an element of freedom to this group to come and create or just sit; whatever people need to soothe their souls. It is my favourite group to lead, as it has reminded me how much we all need space to just be without having to meet deadlines and expectations.
Three years ago, I never would have felt comfortable leading a group with such little structure; I was a firm believer that good leadership meant providing answers and instruction. My time learning in intentional community with the staff and students of the Centre has greatly transformed my view on that. I have learned that there is a time and space where structured groups are needed, but there is an even greater value in just being together in community – providing spaces for stories to be shared and voices to be lifted. Sharing stories and lifting voices that often are not given space to be heard is something that Stella’s Circle does very well.
The purpose of these groups and spaces at Stella’s Circle, I have come to understand, is to offer community space where a real connection can happen – not only with myself but between the participants in the groups. They allow the space to connect with friends, meet new people, and be creative. They provide an opportunity for participants to leave their house which they would otherwise not have as often. These groups are desired and loved by the community of Stella’s Circle. “I believe all these groups work together with each other,” one regular attendee told me, “to help build a person’s self-confidence as well as their self-esteem. They help with a person’s mental health by limiting isolation and assisting them to step out of their comfort zones.”
In my seven months with Stella’s Circle, I have been transformed. I have seen how simple spaces to gather can be social ministry programming. I have seen the intentionality of relationships. I have gained so much from just talking with the people of Stella’s Circle and hearing their stories. I have grown more in my confidence in ministry and self through relationships with the staff and participants of Stella’s Circle. The relationships I have made here I will carry with me through my ministry and the ideals of Stella’s Circle will shape my ministry.
A Home. A Job. A Community. That is what we all want.
Rebecca Pike is a student in the Diaconal Ministries program at the Centre for Christian Studies and a member of the CCS Communications Committee.