The Bridge: Urban Ministry Meets Urban Outreach
In May of 2017, the interns of Serve Seattle, an urban ministry internship program for young adults associated with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, gathered with local volunteers and community resource partners to host the first Bridge event under the I-5 Bridge, at the cross streets of 6th and Columbia. Jenna Dubas, a second year intern with Serve Seattle and co-director of the Bridge, explains, "When it comes down to it, the idea of the Kingdom of God is so important in my life, so transformational to think about and then to try to live that out. I really feel like the Bridge is such an accurate representation of what that might look like, bringing people from all walks of life together, under the meaning of Jesus and his love for people.”
The idea of the Bridge began after Serve Seattle's trip to Portland, Oregon, in the spring of 2017. While in Portland, they worked alongside an organization called Operation Night Strike, who hosts a similar one-night resource event for their houseless community under the Burnside Bridge. Kyle Reynolds, the Program Coordinator for Serve Seattle, asked the interns to pay attention to what was being done throughout the experience as to inspire ideas of how this could be replicated in Seattle. As she reflected on the work being done there, Jenna was touched by how relationally-focused the outreach event was, and how the consistency and long-term investment on behalf of the organization emphasized that fact even more. After this experience, the common question amidst the group was what it would look like to empower the interns at Serve Seattle to take on an outreach event similar to what they had experienced in Portland. Enter the creation of the Bridge event.
“There are so many resources available,” Jenna noted, "and I feel like it’s our job at Serve Seattle to steward them well, to be purposeful.” This is exactly what the Bridge event does. "It is built on collaborating with the community, bringing pieces of the community together.” In this one-night event, many different community partners are gathered to provide resources in one common location. Partners include Operation Sack Lunch, Redeeming Soles, Providence Medical Group, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and local church and community volunteers. Throughout the event, the houseless community is offered means to meet their basic needs, such as food, clothing items, hair cuts, bicycle repairs, hygiene items, books, showers, and information about local resources that are available to them.
Beyond this, however, they are offered relationships. Jenna expressed, “This event is important because it emphasizes relationships, which is a focus at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and what is at the heart of Serve Seattle. It pushes people to reach outside of themselves, outside of their groups and what is comfortable, to be in society and to care for people. It provides the houseless community the opportunity to have someone listen to them and to connect with them. After being an intern at Serve Seattle for a year, being so immersed in the houseless community here, it taught me a lot about my faith and how I view other people, and I was just so warmly welcomed by this community. So, to be able to give back to them is an incredible opportunity.”
Beginning October 19th, the Serve Seattle interns will be gathering alongside community partners and local volunteers under the I-5 Bridge to host the first Bridge event for the fall. Following this, the Bridge will be hosted on the third Thursday of every month in the same location. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up to serve during the event, and donations are welcome, as well. Jenna emphasized, “When it is all said and done, if we have built relationships with people that are meaningful, and if people feel like it was a place where they were known and loved, and if we have empowered our interns and church community and Seattle well, then it’s a success. Even if we just help one person.”
To get involved, follow the Bridge on social media on Facebook and Instagram: @thebridgeseattle.