No Altar, No Pews, Not Even a Roof, but Very Much a ChurchStory first covered here.
Some men could not bring themselves to look up from the grass. Others could not stand still. Most are homeless. They sleep at a nearby shelter and spend the daytime, when the shelter is closed, looking for warmth and food. They are the parishioners of Street Church, an outdoor worship service held on Tuesdays by the Church of the Epiphany, a downtown [Washington, D.C.] Episcopal parish.
“This gives me strength to deal with things,” Mr. Robinson, 49, said of the service and the meal that follows it. “I think God is with me. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I could survive all this.”
“When you become homeless, you become very aware of how people treat you,” said the Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery, who runs Street Church. “It’s hard to walk into a church, and it’s even harder when you are homeless because you’re worried about how you will be received, or if you smell bad. Some people never go inside at all, because they worry that they can lose all their stuff,” as in shopping carts that must be left outside, “or be sent to a mental hospital or to jail.”
Street Church began last February. Though Epiphany keeps its doors open during the day for everyone, and offers breakfast and an indoor service for the homeless on Sundays, the rector, the Rev. Randolph Charles, had wanted to expand into some type of outdoor worship, Ms. Jeffery said. So Mr. Charles met with the Rev. [Dr.] Deborah Little Wyman, another Episcopal priest, who started an outdoor worship mainly for the homeless in Boston 11 years ago and who wanted to find a church in Washington to begin a similar service.
Ms. Wyman, trying to introduce outdoor worship elsewhere as well, says she is working with churches and other groups, about half of them affiliated with the Episcopal Church, in 40 cities in the United States and abroad. Already some such worship is under way in cities including Asheville, N.C.; Atlanta; Cincinnati; Portland, Me.; and San Francisco.
More about the Rev. Dr. Wyman's ministry in Boston here.