To be the church in this neighborhood and to fulfill this congregation's longstanding commitment to welcoming all people, including those who are poor and live with mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities.
About the Site:
Located in Southeast Atlanta, Holy Comforter has provided hospitality and loving community to people living on the margins of society for over 25 years. About 65% of Holy Comforter’s members have a mental health disability. In addition to its life as a worshiping community, Holy Comforter operates the Friendship Center, a day program for members and neighbors that offers transportation, hot meals, health and human services, recreational opportunities, and formal programming in arts and gardening to 80–100 program participants each Tuesday and Thursday. The Holy Comforter community gathers four times a week—Tuesdays and Thursdays for the Friendship Center, Wednesdays for Eucharist followed by a community supper, and Sundays for the Holy Eucharist. Saturdays are also times for field trips and special activities.
We are delighted to welcome Contextual Education Students to be a part of the Holy Comforter community! Students complete their site work hours on Wednesday afternoons from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. They work as a team to develop and lead new programming for a group of 20–30 church members who live in poverty and with mental health disabilities, and they assist with Wednesday evening worship services. Emphasis is placed on building supportive, one-on-one relationships with parishioners. Students draw on their own gifts, experience, and interests in developing new programming. Past programming has included Bible study, arts and crafts, Taizé, music, and games. Students also have opportunities to lead and plan worship and visit parishioners in group homes.
It is our hope that students will come away from this experience with a deeper and more expansive understanding of what it means to be human and made in the image of God, what it means to live in community, how to accept and offer hospitality, and how the lives of those who live on the margins inform the identity and work of the church.
A Student's Perspective:
"The reward in Con Ed for me was not only reading about or seeing, but living (if only for a short time) through the lens of the marginalized, be it mentally ill, terminally ill, poor, and those who simply had deep spiritual needs. This gave me a great appreciation for what it really means to be a Christian through Christ’s ministry and works. Working at Holy Comforter and with the mentally ill, conversations are uncomfortable or even nonsensical on the periphery. However, after taking time to truly understand and provide presence to the congregants a great deal is learned not only about theology but about society. In this sense, the deeply enriching experience of Con Ed has not only made me a better student on the way to my theological profession, but a far better person as well."
"Holy Comforter is a unique community that brings individuals together who have a range of mental illnesses. My hours were Wednesday evenings from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. During that time, I had an opportunity to participate in various activities, engage in conversations with a number of the congregants, and help out during the church service. As a result of this experience, I am more aware of the importance of being open to new experiences. I met some individuals who have learned to make the best out of their situations and can still praise God in spite of the challenges they face."