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Dinner with Paul

with 12 comments

Marin County | California

As he opened his battered case inscribed with “JESUS IS A LIBERAL,” I wondered what he was going to do with a feather.

The Rev. Paul Gaffney was about to address a small group of homeless and low-income people, the kind of folks many of the more prosperous citizens of Marin County tend to shun. Every Tuesday, Paul brings the group together in the borrowed community room at the First Presbyterian Church in San Rafael, California.

I was there because Paul is about to update the Interfaith Street Chaplaincy of Marin website, and he asked me to take new photos.

According to the website, Paul was ordained into the Christian Ministry by the Northern California/Nevada Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Lafayette Christian Church on June 4, 2006. These days he spends most of his time as a street chaplain, providing emotional and spiritual support to the people you might see lingering on the streets of San Rafael, with no place to call home.

After twenty or so people gathered in a circle, Paul introduced a short poem as a way of encouraging discussion. The topic was personal fear, and how it can restrict our lives, or be used as a catalyst to personal exploration and growth.

My hearing is shot, so I didn’t get much of what was said, but I think the feather was used to help the group stay focused as it was passed around the circle, giving each participant a chance to testify about personal fear if the spirit called.

The group lasted for about thirty minutes, and then Paul got word from the kitchen that the dinner was ready. By that time many more people had arrived for the free meal, and that was fine with him. It wasn’t like the old Salvation Army where you had to listen to a temperance lecture before being fed. Everyone was welcome here.

The dinners have been a tradition for many years and used to be handled by volunteers from various Marin congregations. About two years ago many of the congregations dropped out, so Paul took over the operation with a handful of the helpers. They meet in the church kitchen at 9:30 am, and work throughout the day to prepare a meal of fresh foods for about sixty expected quests.

Everything went off without a hitch, and I left deeply impressed.

The Rev. Paul Gaffney preparing meals for homeless and low-income citizens of Marin County.

The Rev. Paul Gaffney starts preparing meals every Tuesday at 9:30 AM for homeless and low-income citizens in Marin County.

big pot in kitchen

Paul works with a loyal group of kitchen helpers.

Jesus was a Liberal.


moment of meditation

big feather

Pass the feather

standing and deliver

sitting big feather

hands of broom handle

Some hands have a million stories to tell.

wide view of dining hall

two bowls of soap

Soup for this evening and something for breakfast.


Written by Ron Greene

September 1, 2014 at 8:59 am

12 Responses

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  1. Incredible photos Ron. The hand shot with the feather tells a story in itself. These photos and individuals are beautiful.


    September 1, 2014 at 10:59 am

  2. I thought this edition of your was really exceptional, Ron. Photos and text/writing were very moving. Mort


    Morton Stein

    September 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

  3. I’m impressed too. When are you coming for fall colors in the Sierra? Love, Helga

    Helga Kennedy

    September 2, 2014 at 3:15 pm

  4. Are you going to serve at the homeless Thanksgiving Dinner this year? I did last year. You get a free turkey dinner for serving. Very interesting to do it. I recommend it.

    Stephen J. Johnson


    September 2, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    • I might give it a try, but it’s hard to take photos when dishing out stuffing.

      Ron Greene

      September 2, 2014 at 5:37 pm

  5. It’s great to see the good work you’re doing Rev Paul & the people who’s lives you touch. And it makes me miss your cooking as well!


    September 4, 2014 at 9:30 am

  6. B&W photos are such a powerful medium. They are so expressive. Well done!!

    Michael Millhollin

    September 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm

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