A Church Without Walls
By Lenette Evans
For two years now, the church of The Common Ground, led by Rev. Bob Book and his wife Holly Book, have brought faith to the homeless through gospel readings and weekly communion in Atlanta, Georgia. The church is a homeless ministry affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese. It was inspired by the outdoor worship with the homeless led by Rev. Debbie Little of Ecclesia Ministries in Boston.
Officials have been really slow to recognize nontraditional street ministries as a “Real Church.”
“We need to quit expecting people who live without homes to come inside our church buildings,” said Debbie Shaw, who heads the organization’s community ministries programs. “We need to go to where they are.” Common Ground is open to anyone and about 90 percent of the regular attendees are homeless.
If you wear a blanket, or nod off, or don’t smell so great, it’s not a problem. The church is for anyone and everyone who needs the Lord. The Church of the Common Ground convenes in Woodruff Park every Sunday at 1p.m. (January-February it moves to the ministries storefront at: 170 Trinity Ave S.W.)
“What the church needs is a church without walls,” said Holly Book. “It’s important for this church to say, we’ll come to you, instead of the typical model of you come to us,” she said. “There are practical needs to be addressed - somebody needs a coat, a sandwich but... that is not its primary purpose. It is about being with people and meeting their spiritual needs.”
“You don’t have to go to a church with a steeple on it to find it. You can go to the park. Jesus was an advocate of breaking down traditions, and it is working today in Atlanta!”
Rev. Bob Book was ordained as an Episcopal priest in October at a ceremony at the park. “People will say to me, some day pastor, you will be blessed with a church,” Book said. “And I say, we already have a church. It just doesn’t have walls. And I don’t want walls. Once you erect walls you start keeping people out, either by accident or intentionally. I want to be visible to everyone.”
Saving Souls Ministry
By Rev. Bruce Wright
We do indeed live in critical times. This is a time where capitalism, both in the US and abroad, is unraveling and crashing. It was inevitable that greed and selfishness would lead to this. Capitalism has always been about greed and power at the expense of people. Going all the way back to Jesus, we were told that you cannot serve God and Mammon. This collapse and rescue of Wall Street has nothing to do with helping the common person, but everything to do with rewarding the criminals, looters, and hooligans that run Wall Street. This bailout, which by the way has a lot of ridiculous “pork barrel” bills attached, will not solve the problem. The people know this. It is only the beginning of attempts by the government, in collusion with the Global Corporate Capitalists, to take away our freedom and make everyone part of a slave class. Those in power know this too, which is why they are violating the Constitution by preparing for the military to be used domestically.
As a follower of Christ, it especially sickens me, and I think it sickens God, that those who claim to follow the one who came to preach the Good News to the poor, to set the captives free, to proclaim liberty to the oppressed, would not only support this sick system, but say God is behind it. No WAY!! They obviously don’t understand and serve the same Jesus, whom the early church understood as on the side of the oppressed and poor. We must not serve Empire. We must speak out and rise up! We must organize and create alternatives to Empire! We must make the clarion call to revolution. A peaceful, nonviolent, direct action, civil disobedience-oriented movement is needed. We can no longer just sit by and do nothing!
We cannot rely on elections to change a thing. Both parties are bankrupt, with the exception of a few. Most are bought and paid for by Wall Street, including both presidential candidates. The corruption is so deep and wide that the only way to bridge it is if the people rise up as a united class and oust them! We can no longer just sit by.
It’s also incumbent upon those who claim allegiance to Christ and his teachings that we create communities of resistance and prepare ourselves for this collapse that is currently occurring and will continue to occur, by being ready to stand up to the coming fascism by radically offering hospitality to the hurting and oppressed.
We must also become informed and constantly vigilant to what is happening around us. We must create shared economies, sharing of resources, and alternative energies. We must recognize that those in power will not give up easily. They will fight us in any way they can, including using the media to try to get us to believe that everything is okay.
I would just like to say, in closing, that I know many will disagree with me at some level and, further, feel that a ministry has no business addressing these issues. But I am compelled, our ministry is compelled by everything we believe to be sacred, to speak. We have paid the price for this, we know. The Refuge, our ministry here in St. Petersburg, Fla., is barely keeping above water, and I am unable to pay rent this month, but I know we must continue to speak the truth! Please join us and millions of others in this struggle worldwide for a just and cooperative society.
This article originated in the People's Tribune
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