Church beyond walls, ministering in the park

The unholy noises of the city surround Burnside Park where the Rev. Edmund Harris delivers his Saturday afternoon service.

He plants himself behind a makeshift altar, light-blue stole draped over his peacoat, and asks the people milling about to “gather ’round.”

Some settle into folding chairs; others stand. A regular known as “Mama Kelley” passes out sheets with the service printed on it.

Then, a man with a plastic bag stuffed with belongings interrupts.

“Sir,” the man says, “could you spare some change?”

“Not tonight,” the Rev. Mr. Harris replies gently, “but afterwards we have coffee and sandwiches … ”

The “Church Beyond Walls,” now marking its first anniversary, is designed to draw some of the neediest residents who might not otherwise feel welcome at an indoor church.

Some come for the service; others for the free coffee, snacks, sandwiches and bins of donated hats and gloves.

But while the free food is, no doubt, a draw, its organizers say, it’s not the purpose.

“What I don’t want this to be is a charity,” the Rev. Mr. Harris said. “I want this to be a community.” Continue reading.

Source: Providence Journal

Image: Providence Journal

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