A Letter From Richard: Voices of our City Choir

As of April 25th, the Voices of our City Choir began hosting weekly rehearsals in the Great Hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. For those unfamiliar with Voices of Our City Choir it is a choir composed of people experiencing homelessness. It was established by Steph Johnson, a local musician and jazz vocalist, after she noticed the suffering of her unsheltered neighbors and began to organize outreach that brought food, clothing, blankets and friendship to people experiencing homelessness. Inspiration came from doing outreach and discovering that many people living on the streets were artists and musicians with no outlet. Understanding the power of music and group singing, Steph decided to make choral music available to the people experiencing homelessness in the area. 

The program has expanded and enlarged, and they even performed on “America’s Got Talent” in the fall of 2020, winning the “golden buzzer” on the show. In the early fall of 2021, my spouse Maura and I went with some friends to an event at the Rady Shell on the San Diego Bay, and we were graced by the music offered by Voices of Our City. At the time, one of the friends who was with us, Lindsey Seegers, wondered aloud if there was any chance this wonderful choir mind end up with an Episcopal Church to call home. Neither Lindsey nor I knew at the time that God was already ahead of us, and that we would end up in positions to make it happen. I of course am blessed to be your associate here at St. Paul’s, with its own grand musical tradition. Lindsey, our friend, became the deputy Executive Director of Voices a little over a month ago, and now our partnership is truly beginning.

This partnership brings more arts and culture to the Bankers Hill community in a space with both longstanding music programs as well as compassionate service to our unsheltered neighbors. In their first rehearsal at St. Paul’s, several Choir Members recounted the kindness, hospitality, and “unforgettably delicious” homecooked breakfasts offered to them by St. Paul’s while living in Balboa Park. The vast potential of this new partnership includes opportunities to grow the Voices of Dignity advocacy activities, increase Voices’ presence in the LGBTQ community, and expand our musical offerings at St. Paul’s. Voices of Our City will also relocate their outreach, bringing hygiene kits, water, and friendship to those residing just across the street from the Cathedral in Balboa Park, further augmenting and complementing our Showers of Blessings ministry. It is perfect marriage of our congregational values in music, outreach, and mission.

My hope is that St. Paul’s and Voices’ synergy so that we may empower and embolden each other to take on root issues related to housing and the experience of homelessness. We could combine and organize our efforts to craft and push for desperately needed societal change on related issues to the benefit of all. Together our voices could be heard across our city, county, and state. May we give thanks to God for this partnership even as we begin to explore its full potential, and may we welcome our newest partners in mission. The Holy Spirt is up to something and it’s going to be good trouble! Thank you, Voices of Our City, for joining us as we seek to serve others and welcome all.

See you Sunday!
Rev. Richard

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3 thoughts on “A Letter From Richard: Voices of our City Choir”

  1. Editorial comment by the author:
    1. Thank you to our volunteer ministers at St. Paul’s and from First United Methodist for their ongoing support of our Showers of Blessings program.
    2. Steph Johnson had a co-founder named Nina Dearing who passed away tragically last year.

    Reply
  2. I’m so excited about this new partnership! I also heard th on America’s Got Talent, and thought at the time, how great it would be if we could invite them to the Cathedral. Thank you Richard for making this happen!!

    Reply

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