Song and Spirit’s New Home

song and spirit movingInterfaith Torah study, films, a gift shop, and a new home base to launch the monthly delivery of 3 tons of food. Song and Spirit is about to move the Institute for Peace that has been growing its’ programs and operations since Jewish Hazan Steve Klaper and Franciscan Friar Brother Al Mascia brought their troubadour talents together to educate and entertain interfaith audiences.

In 2011, they combined their musical ministry with Brother Al’s Detroit outreach street ministry and Mary Gilhuly’s community art projects to create the Song and Spirit Institute for peace. Operating out of former Jesuit novitiate house on the campus of Our Lady of La Salette in Berkley, they have instituted regular Shabbat, interfaith Havdallah, and Taize services, as well as continuing to conduct concerts, events, community gatherings, and mosaic glass workshops.

This year, the church’s space needs changed, and Song and Spirit needed to find a new home. Klaper, Mascia, and Gilhuly went looking for real estate, checking out warehouses, modular space, and other church buildings. Eventually, while looking for a promising space, they met the landlord, a Muslim immigrant who was fascinated by their mission. In addition to helping them find their new home, he became a supporter.

So, Sometime around the beginning of August, when the doors at Song and Spirit Institute for Peace’s current home close, new ones will open at a double store front at 4300 Rochester Road (and 13 ½) in Royal Oak.

The move has offered a mix of challenges and opportunities. It’s a much smaller space, not big enough for worship services, but Rev. Ric Beattie, who is a Song and Spirit Board Member, and Unity of Royal Oak stepped in and Song and Spirit can now accommodate 100 -150 worshippers at Unity, where they once had seating for only 45.

Damaged by a fire, the storefront space is undergoing substantial renovation this summer, and will be fully handicap accessible and sporting new plumbing and HVAC when Song and Spirit moves in. In addition to an office, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and an art area, it will also give Brother Al a gathering space where he can indulge his love for cinema with regular film discussion groups, and a gift shop with regular hours to sell the wonderful mosaics made by volunteers in Gilhuly’s Art in Action workshops.

It will also be a great place for Klaper and Mascia to do Saturday morning interfaith Torah study, where they read and examine the torah portion of the week and the weekly gospel reading together. According to Klaper, when you start comparing them, “very interesting things start to happen.”

As they transition, operations continue, with outreach coordinator Greg Allen continuing to collect and distribute over 3 tons of food to over 50 shelters, churches, soup kitchens, and agencies around the city, as well as to people out on the street.

Currently, Allen does his deliveries in a Sprinter van donated by Prezio Home Health, called the Care ‘avan. But with over 300,000 miles on it, the van probably won’t last another winter. The back doors are welded shut, and, according to Brother Al, it loses a piece of itself every time it goes down the highway.

Over 4 thousand people are counting on the deliveries made by that van, so if you’re reading this, and you have a gently used full-sized or cargo van or know someone who may want to donate one, email

In addition to food collected by Gleaners, the Care’avan delivers Snack Pax to 400 kids a week. The snack Pax are breakfast or protein bars, fruit cups and juice boxes that are packed into bags hand-decorated by groups all over metro Detroit. And they deliver Care Pax to churches, synagogues, mosques, and some of the campus organizations for distribution. Care Pax are gallon plastic bags packed with seasonal care items that people living on the street need. In winter, they contain hand warmers, toe warms, gloves, a hat, socks, and toiletries, and the summer version contains a refillable water bottle, baseball cap, rain poncho, socks, and toiletries. And in all seasons, Care Pax contain a sheet listing 50-60 resources in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb country for people living in the margins.

People pick them up from barrels in 9 locations and keep them in their back seats, so when they stop at a stop sign and see someone with a sign asking for help, they can give them something other than a dollar.

The point of Song and Spirit is not just that they are doing service, but that they are giving other people the opportunity to be of service, doing outreach, interfaith programming, etc.

“There simply are not enough of us to reach people all over the community,” says Brother Al. “We try to provide tools for other people to be the hands of God as well.”

Community members can help with that work by becoming “peacekeepers” and pledging a monthly donation (click here).

Also, when the time comes to move, Klaper, Mascia, and Gilhuly agreed that they could use “A carload of teenagers, twenty somethings, football players, that would be a great thing. Shoot us an email if they have a pick-up truck and strong backs. If anyone wants to help us that would be great.