Western Oregon to launch mission serving unhoused with backing of churchwide grant

Posted Dec 1, 2023
Sara Fischer

The Rev. Sara Fischer offers a warm meal to a neighbor. Photo: Episcopal Church in Western Oregon

[Episcopal Church in Western Oregon] The Portland-based Episcopal Church in Western Oregon will launch a new Episcopal community in the diocese primarily serving the unhoused, with the backing of a one-year $25,000 seed grant from The Episcopal Church’s church planting program.

The Mission of Saint Mary the Prophet will serve the community of East Portland. It is based on an idea developed in conversations between Bishop Diana Akiyama and the Rev. Sara Fischer as they discerned what a model of church that is outside a traditional parish or mission status would look like. Such an outward-facing ministry would focus particularly on those who cannot financially support a building.

The mission’s name references “The Magnificat” from Luke 1:46-55 as the building-less ministry’s cornerstone.

“The bishop and I are both passionate about the role of the church living out Mary’s proclamation,” said Fischer. “The Magnificat shows her prophetic role in addition to other roles in our faith.”

“This mission seeks to embody Mary’s prophetic vision by responding to and embracing communities that have historically been ignored,” Akiyama said. “As a new faith community, the Mission of Saint Mary the Prophet will begin as a gathering of an intentional community rather than as outreach from an established congregation. In this way, those who are being served will also be those who serve and seek to interpret God’s grace and mercy in this specific context.”

The Mission of Saint Mary the Prophet will focus on two objectives in its first year: having intentional one-on-one conversations with the unhoused community about faith and their faith experience, and gathering people to co-create a grassroots trauma-informed worship. “I have always been fascinated with street church, and am interested to see what that looks like in Portland,” Fischer said.

Half of the seed grant will cover Fischer’s stipend, while the other half will fund the ministry’s professional and hospitality services. Fischer has rented a small office in the Montavilla neighborhood as her “home base,” but she plans to mainly operate this ministry from her car and by foot, walking the streets of East Portland.