Mental Health Ministries

Models of Ministry – What Congregations are Doing

The Sidewalk Talk Listening Post - San Francisco, California

Listening PostLast spring, a friend of mine, Karolyn Stenlund, who is also a spiritual director and I, inspired by an effort we read about, decided to embark on a joint adventure of listening to people on the streets of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, one of city’s poorest neighborhoods.  We were able to obtain the sponsorship of the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco, and a small grant from the city to cover our expenses.  We joined an effort called “Sidewalk Talk” that has volunteers who set up chairs and "free listening" signs in various public spaces.  Sidewalk Talk’s mission is “to nurture human connection by teaching and practicing heart-centered listening in public spaces.” The goal is about de-stigmatizing mental health.
Today, Sidewalk Talk has 700 volunteers world-wide in 19 cities around the globe, with more being added all the time.  They have a website where people can sign up to be “listeners” and can be trained in an excellent on-line training. 

When I explained to one man that we weren’t selling anything or trying to convert anyone, he asked, “Then, why do you come?  What’s in it for you?”  I said, “I have the satisfaction of knowing I am helping to make the world a friendlier place.”  There is something sacred about people having authentic conversation about the important situations of their lives.  There is no small talk, no jockeying for relative position.  Just sharing from one heart to another. 

Rev. Barbara F. Meyers
Fremont, California