You recognize his face. You see him at every community event and meeting. You probably know him as Jim from COTS. But did you know Hamilton’s journey has taken him from being an actor/musician/singer to nonprofit director to an Episcopal priest and CCA Board member? Learn more about this Renaissance man and how he’s spent the past several years becoming Canton’s biggest cheerleader.
Hi Jim. Let’s start with how long have you lived in Canton and how did you get here?
I have been here about 5 years now. I still feel new to a neighborhood that values its deep roots. But, it is very much my home. I fell in love with Baltimore and Canton almost immediately. It seems like the place I was destined to settle down and do this work.
What is your role at Church on the Square and how would you describe the philosophy of the Church?
I am the priest at Church on the Square (COTS). But, that might be a loaded word. My real role is community facilitator, counselor, and champion for faithful ideas. I hope to help others shine and succeed in the SE, regardless of their perceived affiliation with Church on the Square.
Aside from spiritual services, COTS offers a lot of community-based programs. Please tell us about some of your favorites.
I have so many favorites because they all remind me of the amazing leaders who are taking ideas from shared dreams into reality. Music on the Square is about bringing amazing artists to Canton and sharing eclectic energy with this neighborhood. Yoga is about healing and caring for our bodies, which is both physical and spiritual. And, all of our family programming, TOTS @ COTS, Movies on the Square, Dance on the Square, and more are meant to live out our deepest mission, to serve our neighbors and their children well. There are a few programs that I am excited about coming up, too. Our young families programming is going to be adding improvisational theatre work and more music in the future. And, we are going to start taking the energy that we have been fostering here in Canton and sharing it with people all over the SE.
You are a big advocate for Canton. I understand you were inspired by a beloved community member who you never met. Please share…
When I first arrived in Canton, I took a tour of all the business leaders, social justice advocates, and community trailblazers. I wanted to find out what was missing and how I could help the neighborhood without duplicating the good work that was already underway. I heard a name over and over, Scunny. I knew that this was an important leader in the neighborhood who was conspicuously missing now. For those of you who did not know Scunny, like I didn’t know him, he was a gruff but remarkably generous restaurateur (of Nacho Mamas) who stuck up for his neighbors, cared for the hungry and fiercely defended the Canton family. He seemed like the pastor that I would need to aspire to become if I were to make a real impact on this neighborhood. It was then and there that I decided to play down the role of a separate and cloistered church space (if I had ever thought that would work) and decided that all programming, conversations, and generosity of the church would have to be actively smashing down the walls that separate it from the neighborhood.
What do you like most about living/working in the Canton Community?
I love the relationships I have made that are unlikely. I like knowing my neighbors and the business owners who have been born and raised here and exude a tough attitude…and are secretly, wildly caring and kind. I like how the heart beating at the center of this community constantly surprises me.
We’re so happy to have you on the CCA Board… what does it mean to you?
I can’t know how to serve the neighborhood if I stop listening to our neighbors. CCA is a way for me to be in touch with the work of our community and to be working alongside people who love it in the same way I do. So many unlikely projects and friendships have been born out of my time serving on the CCA. I encourage everyone to role up their sleeves and get involved.
How can we, as neighbors, engage and help each another?
Two things. First, you who are well-intentioned and have energy, this is for you. Do not do your good deeds in a vacuum or with a reward of esteem in mind. Redundancy and disrespect for those who are already doing amazing work make our accomplishing goals for our community Sisyphean. We start over and over and over again with new names and new leaders and never take the time to listen to what has happened before and who is also passionate about this idea. Link together. Share your energy around. Many hands make light work…and many hearts make lasting change. So, try not to be offended if you were hoping to be a leader and end up being a worker bee. Second, and connected to the first one, meet your neighbors. Acedia is the scourge of this neighborhood. Acedia is the state of selfish disinterest in your impact on others that excuses cluttered, rat-infested alleys and steps over our neighbors experiencing homelessness. It is pernicious. But, it is so easily curbed by just meeting your neighbors. See that your life and theirs are interconnected. See that you need them. See that, even if you are only here for a few years, you can learn a lasting lesson about yourself in the family of SE Baltimore.
Is there anything else you liked our neighbors to know?
First of all, we are a welcoming church for people in all stages of their spiritual journey. I know a lot of churches claim such things. We really mean it. If you think God is picking on you. If you think God is a sham. If you are a disaffected Catholic, Evangelical or even an avowed Agnostic with a penchant to pick fights…believe me, you will feel at home. I work hard to make our services and our discussions radically welcoming. And, when I mess up, I am very good at hearing from people that I have fouled. We are especially good at welcoming couples with wildly different spiritual backgrounds, even entirely different faiths. All people can find a home at Church on the Square.
Second, I am here to listen. I am a trained pastoral counselor and consider my role as a priest for this parish (the neighborhood) already well compensated. If you need to talk and can’t afford or can’t find a therapist, I can be a good springboard to longer-term psychological care. I have a wealth of licensed providers that I refer people to see. But, before then, there are quite a few things I can offer to help.
How can someone reach you?
Find me on Facebook and drop me a message. Text me at 630-306-5702. Call me on the church line. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Drop by. I am around all the time.
For those interested in worship, when are the services?
Sundays at 10AM. Saturdays at 4PM. Check the website for other services, Bible Study is usually at 7:30 on Mondays, but can take breaks between sessions. Meditation is always at 8PM on Wednesdays. And, if you want to start a book group, discussion group, 12 step group, or anything else that brings love to this neighborhood…reach out. We can always do more. Love is not a limited resource.