Former inner-city minister embracing rural life

Published on December 21, 2013
Rev. Steven Maki has arrived to serve Anglican parishioners on the southwest coast of the province. — Photo by Chantelle MacIsaac/The Gulf News

Rev. Steven Maki is the new face of
St. Paul’s Anglican Parish on the southwest coast.
He has returned to Newfoundland, the place he was ordained, after several years working on the streets in Boston.

Maki grew up in Lunenburg, Mass., outside of Boston, where he was raised as a Lutheran and a Congregationalist.

He eventually converted to the Anglican Church, saying he was drawn to its traditional elements  and considered his faith to be a sort of a bridge between his mother’s and father’s beliefs.

He says he knew from a very young age he had a calling to serve.

He studied pre-seminary courses in college before heading to the seminary, and finished his theological education at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.

Bishop Leonard Whitten of the Anglican Diocese for western Newfoundland travelled to Cambridge to recruit seminarians because of the scarcity of Anglican priests in Newfoundland.

Encouraged to try Newfoundland

Maki was encouraged by friends to give Newfoundland a try at the time when Whitten was retiring and Percy Coffin had become the bishop.

Coffin invited Maki to come and visit, then invited him to serve on the island.

Maki spent some time in Flower’s Cove on the Northern Peninsula, and his first impression of Newfoundland was positive.

“The people were incredibly warm and friendly, and so generous,” said Maki.

“The churches are beautiful and I love the traditions here.”

He has found that people want to grow, learn new music, prayer and meditation practices.

Maki said he also hopes to learn and grow in his new position, and will be here as long as he is needed.

Ordained eight years ago, he is one of the younger ministers on the southwest coast, although he has had worldly experiences that many older members of the clergy have not.

Before coming here, Maki spent almost four years in the street ministry on Newbury Street in Boston.

Starting early in the mornings, he would walk streets, parks and train stations, looking down alleyways and visiting other areas where the homeless might congregate, and speak with them.

He said he didn’t so much push himself on people, as offer himself to them.

“It was unique and out-of-the-box,” said Maki.

“There was a variety of people: alcoholics, people with mental illness, substance abuse, prostitutes, ex-convicts and more.”

Rather than them having to come to the church, Maki went to them. He said religious preferences didn’t matter on the street.

“There was a mixed reaction from people on the street,” Maki said.

“Sometimes they welcomed me, but with a lot of mental illness, you have to be mindful of your own safety.”

During those four years he was  threatened, assaulted, robbed and had a knife pulled on him during a service.

“Despite the odds and all they might have been confronted with,” said Maki, “they still hold themselves together, and maintain their faith and hope.”

New homeb ase

He considers Newfoundland to be sort of a home base, and considers his return a homecoming in many ways.

“As much as I enjoyed my time as a street minister, I really missed and wanted the home feeling that comes along with a parish,” he said.

He says he was glad to see how strongly the Anglican community  on the southwest coast held together in the absence of a priest, and he  credits devoted members of the congregation and the lay minister.

”It really says something about the strength of their faith. I am so grateful to come into a place like that.”

He says he’s noticed the love people have, the musical talent, the fondness for fellowship and food.

“My goal and desire right now is just to build relationships,” said Maki.

“There will be no major changes right now. I just want to listen to the people and find out what they want.”

He said people are starting to recognize him more now and he’s being greeted warmly.

With more than 600 families in his parish, it will take a while to connect the names with the faces, but he’s looking forward to it, as well as the simpler things rural life has to offer: hiking, camping, sitting by the fire at night and looking at the stars.

He loves music, has a good vinyl collection and loves photography.

And although he’s new in town and his things haven’t arrived yet, one of the first things he did was adopt a cat through Scaredy Cat Rescue.

The Gulf News