Hello and welcome!
My name is Dennis Carl Mazza: some people call me Dennis, usually the ones who have known me a long time, but most call me Carl. Don’t ask me why, except that I’ve been partial to my middle name taken after my grandfather, Carlo. I’ve been a Presbyterian Minister since 1978 and the heart of my work has been rooted in the ideals of my beloved community of Meeting Ground. My vocation – Meeting Ground as both an aspiration and as an organization – is rooted in the homelessness that has wrapped around my life since childhood.
I have become too well acquainted with the catastrophic violence to the human spirit we have come to call homelessness. I’ve seen this social crisis get much worse over time in magnitude and in the ugliness of what it does to people. Yet, through my own experience as a child, and in the lives of many thousands of others I have known, I have found a particular spirituality, nurtured in the chaos, which is a unique comprehension of life, our place of belonging, and our concept of God. I have called this a Spirituality of Meeting. I hope through this website to discuss and share this and I look forward to your help. Much more about this idea, along with my life and work especially in establishing Meeting Ground, is in my new book: A Least Expected Heaven: Homelessness and theSpirituality of Meeting, which is now available on Amazon. (Also available for Kindle and Nook.) An excerpt from the book and the table of contents is on separate link on this site.
I was born into an Italian Catholic family from south Philadelphia. My early home life was insecure and troubled, and I learned early on and firsthand the raw needs of persons experiencing homelessness. My first exposure to Presbyterians was as a teenager, having been homeless, angry and alienated. A group of young people, their youth leader, and a dedicated pastor befriended me. I owe a great debt to these persons, and to Trinity Presbyterian Church, Clifton Heights PA. Through them I was introduced to the spirituality of meeting which became the basis of my spiritual journey and which I write about extensively in my book.
I went to live in New York City when I was 16, working at St. Paul’s House, a mission in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan doing youth and family ministry and street evangelism. We also welcomed homeless folk for meals and fellowship. I entered Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, from which I (miraculously) graduated in 1967. While going to school and for several years after I graduated, I lived and worked at the Gospel League Home, a mission for homeless families: one of the few in the country at that time.
I completed my college work at Nyack College (NY). While at Nyack I served as worship assistant at the Ramapo Presbyterian Church, Hillburn, NY. The congregation strongly urged me to seek further education and training for ministry, and I entered Princeton Seminary, graduating in 1978. I was ordained in Hudson River Presbytery at Harrison Presbyterian Church (NY), where I had served as a summer intern. This congregation gave me strong encouragement to enter the ordained ministry.
When I graduated from Princeton I accepted a position as pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Springfield, MA. This was a struggling congregation to which I came as a part-time stated supply in 1978 and left as a full-time installed pastor in 1981. I loved the ministry there, but my desire to establish a new kind of community with and among persons who have experienced homelessness was too strong to ignore. In June, 1981 my wife Marsha, our 2-year-old daughter Alessandra, and I moved to Cecil County, Maryland (Elkton) and begin working to establish the community of Meeting Ground. We worked with this community with much happiness for 30 years. Marsha died of cancer in 2008, and my active role with the Meeting Ground community ended in 2011. Again, our early involvement with Meeting Ground is part of my new book.
Since then I have been freelance: writing, speaking and consulting: taking on short-term contracts when necessary. I am currently pursuing several projects, especially one to enlist adults who have experienced homelessness as children as partners in a new project, Deep Roots, to mentor homeless children. I have two wonderful daughters, Alessandra and Kristen, and two grandchildren.
My Writer’s Resume has specific nuts and bolts details for anyone interested.
Shalom to you, my friend.