From Samaritan Inns to Recovery Café

by Mike Schut, Communications Manager

“Love won’t be real or tested unless we somehow live close to the disadvantaged, who frankly teach us that we know very little about love. To be honest, my male Franciscan seminary training didn’t teach me how to love. It taught me how to obey and conform, but not how to love. I’m still trying every day to learn how to love.” Father Richard Rohr

I was 22. I had just spent the summer in the Black Hills of South Dakota, studying ecology at Wheaton College’s Science Station—the final classes needed to graduate from Wheaton with a degree in biology.

Wheaton is a conservative evangelical school. While its theology and worldview have often felt like something I’ve had to recover from, the college does do a good job of embodying the perspective that faith matters. That one’s beliefs are not only meant to impact or inform one hour on Sunday morning.

I took faith seriously and wanted to go somewhere seeking to live out Jesus’s call to work toward justice and be in relationship with those on the margins. So I sent a letter to Dave and Jenny Erickson, family friends who at the time were involved with Church of the Saviour. Dave had cofounded Samaritan Inns with Killian Noe. He wrote back saying they were looking for an Innkeeper; did I want to come join them?

So I packed my tennis racket and a couple suitcases and booked a flight. I moved in and started my year volunteering as a resident manager at one of the inns which provided housing and recovery support for men who had experienced living on the streets of Washington, DC.

I distinctly remember one sweltering July afternoon. I had taken my noon meal at Christ House, where we all ate. I was crossing Columbia Road to return to the inn, thinking that what I really wanted to share with the men at Samaritan Inns was love. But it struck me like the wall of heat I was wading through: much of what I had learned of love at Wheaton was based on doing the right thing, acting a certain way, believing certain tenets of the faith, needing to please a very demanding God. I realized that didn’t really feel or sound much like love. I realized I had to start over, to trust that if love is at the center of the universe then that love was certainly big enough to hold me while I set out on the uncertain path to discover a deeper love.

Samaritan Inns’ staff and residents provided a container, a place, for me to start out on that transformative journey.

Thirty-five years later I find myself working with Killian again, helping to support the growing network of Recovery Cafés across the country. What I experienced as a young Innkeeper at Samaritan Inns—my need for experiences of deeper love—is what we all need, is what we at the Recovery Café Network are trying to share.

Mike Schut serves as the Recovery Café Network’s Communications Manager. After college he volunteered for a year as a resident manager at Church of the Saviour’s Samaritan Inns in Washington, DC. In addition to studying biology at Wheaton, Mike has a MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon.

Mike has spent the majority of his career connecting spirituality and faith with caring for the Earth, at Earth Ministry and with the national Episcopal Church. While working in that field he edited/partially authored three books Simpler Living, Compassionate Life; Food and Faith; and Money and Faith. He is excited to be working with the Network, supporting the creation of healing communities embodying the truths that we are all loved and that authentic, caring relationships are what we all need and want, and what brings healing to our souls.