In 1976, at the age of 60, a woman by the name of Pauline Fell began walking the streets of the DTES. Although she was a new Christian, she asked God what He wanted her to do with her life, and felt His prompting to befriend people in the neighbourhood. For the next 25 years, almost every day, she faithfully walked the streets and alleys, and visited the bars, prisons, local hospitals and hotels where her many friends could be found. She was known to many as “sister” or “mom,” and virtually everyone in the neighbourhood respected this elderly woman.
In November 2000, Pauline felt God urging her to give her inheritance away before she died. She pondered this, and believing that God wasn’t speaking to her about money, she asked what her inheritance was. Immediately she saw faces flashing before her, hundreds of faces of the people that she had become friends with over the past 25 years. She realized that the many friendships she had built were a rich inheritance, and that it would be squandered if she didn’t pass them on before the end of her life. Her love for God and for the people of the DTES compelled her to seek out others who would be willing to be friends with her friends, in the hopes of experiencing the love of Christ in community. Jacob’s Well was directly birthed out her diligence and obedience.
In June 2001, Pauline and a few friends opened the doors of the storefront at 239 Main Street. No one had any clear idea as to what would happen at Jacob’s Well, but they had a lot of faith that God would help them sort it out. Indeed, God brought Joyce Heron (now Joyce Rees) to that first meeting, and Pauline discerned that Joyce should run Jacob’s Well. Joyce began gathering a community of people to continue the friendship-building work that Pauline had begun. Pauline chose to move into an assisted living building in 2008. Over the course of the next seven years, Pauline felt called to share the love of God with the men and women who lived alongside her at the assisted living facility. She was often seen praying over others in the dining hall and inviting her neighbours into her room for tea and biscuits. In 2015, Pauline passed away at 99 years of age. While she is sorely missed, we strive to keep her legacy alive through the Jacobs' Well community.
our weekly rhythms
Much of our life together is unplanned and random. We do everyday-life kind of things with our friends: we go shopping; we clean the bathroom; we help people move; we celebrate birthdays. However, some of our life together happens in a more planned, rhythmic way. Here are the weekly and yearly rhythms that provide structure to our community.
Most of our team gatherings at Jacob’s Well either begin or end in a time of liturgy and prayer. We often use liturgies from the Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. We write our own liturgies for special times of the church year, like Advent, or for significant times in our neighbourhood, like welfare day. We also have a whole room in the back of our storefront space dedicated to prayer, and team members are invited to make use of it on a regular basis.
Every Monday night, we gather to kick back and get our game hats on. You’ll find people playing cards on the table, chatting on the couch, hunched over a puzzle or drinking a cup of joe. Some of our friends bring their children and that always lightens the space and makes for a relaxed evening in.
Once a week we gather together to worship God musically with our voices and our instruments. These times are integral to who we are as a community. We recognize that when we worship God together we experience His manifest presence. This brings healing and life to us and our neighbourhood. It is a time for intimate expression of our deep love for God.
Once a week, many members of our community gather to plan, cook and clean up a meal together. A few of us go shopping at our local market to supplement what we receive from the food bank and then some of our friends from the neighbourhood come and help cook. We always put the coffee on early so that people can come in, and in no time the front room is usually packed with familiar faces, games of cards, and lots of laughter. It is a hallowed moment as we pause the whole operation for a minute or so of silence before we say grace and eat. About 20-30 neighbours and friends, unlikely companions, come together around three tables to eat in one another’s company. We eat family-style, and our meals certainly have both the deeply fulfilling and frustrating characteristics of family meals. Plenty of people stick around to finish up the dishes. We close the evening by praying for those we have talked with around the table.
On our weekday afternoon teams, we try to maintain a presence at the Jacob’s Well storefront so that we can show hospitality to friends who come to hang out, have coffee and chat with us. But several years ago, we decided to intentionally make coffee and baked goods and invite our friends to come join us once a week. We now have a faithful group of friends and neighbours who join us for Coffee Time, sharing snacks, playing cards, enjoying conversation, and playing music together.
One of our interns, Kat Callaghan, instituted a weekly Art Time at Jacob’s Well. She brought supplies and an idea, gave us the training we needed, and set us free to create. She would also end the time by inviting us to share things about our art, which often provided glimpses into each other’s thoughts and life experiences. When Kat left Vancouver to study Art Therapy, Yolanda carried on the mantle of Art Time.