Church Under the Bridge: homeless ministry

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Church Under the Bridge: homeless ministry

Nicole Zelniker/Guilfordian

Nicole Zelniker/Guilfordian

Nicole Zelniker/Guilfordian

Stepping out of a black Volkswagen Beetle into the crisp October night, I took in my surroundings for the first time. An old brown bridge looming over Spring Garden Street. Hundreds of people crowded around a table full of food.

I went to Church Under the Bridge for my first time in October 2013.

“I didn’t really have any expectations,” said senior and Glen Haven Project Coordinator Christie Loubet-Senear, who went to the Church for the first time in August 2014. “Before the semester started, I didn’t know it existed.”

For those of any religion, a service held under a bridge is an unusual concept.

“I was really curious to see how one could hold a church service under a bridge,” said sophomore Kate Rich.

Although the premise is to provide a space for prayer, the real purpose is community.

“It wasn’t really focused around religion,” said Ardsley High School junior Rachel Barnard, who visited Church in March 2014 while at Guilford College. “It was more of a community which I could relate to, even though I’m Jewish.”

While Church is certainly different from what most Greensboro residents know, it is modeled after Church Under the Bridge in Waco, Texas. Greensboro’s Church Under the Bridge was founded by Kevin Carter.

“I was at college (at Southern Wesleyan University) and got started with a friend of mine,” said Carter. “We went to a homeless ministry in South Carolina and met people (experiencing homelessness) for the first time, really eye to eye.”

After gaining experience through the homeless ministry, Carter and his friends began dishing out meals to the homeless on their own.

“It started with serving meals out of the back of our cars,” said Carter. “Eventually, (we realized) we could have a church right under the bridge. We started planning and organizing, and next thing you know, we had Church Under the Bridge.”

For the past year, Guilfordians have been reaching out to others, encouraging all to experience it.

“It’s important to get out and be aware of your surroundings,” said sophomore Leah Whetten-Goldstein. “Church is our community. It’s good to explore and be aware of other parts of Greensboro.”

This year, Guilford students have the opportunity to integrate themselves further in the church community through providing dinner there.

“A different church hosts each week, so they do the service and provide the food,” said Whetten-Goldstein. “Guilford is going to do (that) in March. We’re teaming up with different food providers and Guilford students. It’s going to be the most interactive that Guilford has gotten with whurch.”

Under the Bridge is a completely different world.

“It gets us outside of this bubble of Guilford that we’re in, and you get to see a totally different side (of Greensboro),” said sophomore Connor Pruitt. “I feel a sense of community and a connection to the people that are there.”

For me, the best part of Church has always been the people.

“There’s always something to learn from everyone’s story,” said sophomore Mara Stern.

Today, fellow Project Coordinator and senior Noelle Lane and I work to get others to experience Church.

“We wanted to work on building a bridge from Guilford College to the bridge here, (at Church) Under the Bridge,” said Lane.