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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Feeding faith in Church Under The Bridge

A s the days drew closer to Church Under the Bridge on Saturday, April 4, I found myself conflicted by my own expectations and my duty to be objective as a journalist. I could be visited by my version of God or, at the very least, submit to his calling.

It became clear that what resided on the other side of that “or” could very well be the catalyst responsible for the formation of the church and culpable for senior co-project coordinator Noelle Lane’s passion for Guilford College’s participation in the church’s services.

“I realized that it was so much more than academic work here, that I could have opportunities to be in the community and not just be in an isolated academic setting,” said Lane.

When I arrived, it was not long before I found myself surrounded by volunteers whose names and faces were unknown to me. I felt out of place. Soon, I found myself moving tables and in the midst of the dance of the worker bees.

Eventually familiar faces arrived, and I slowly removed myself from the organized chaos to watch as the community came alive.

I watched as Lane, Susan May, Bonner Center coordinator, Conner Pruitt, sophomore and Donzahniyniya Pitre, first-year, fell into place preparing for a feast. It did not feel like church. It felt like Sunday dinner.

“I always find God there,” said May.

The Church is a fairly new model for Greensboro, though there are similar concepts happening in places like Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina, to name a few.

Mike Murray, one of the core members of the 16 Cents Ministry, played a pivotal role in starting the Church Under the Bridge ministry in Greensboro.

“We decided to start taking our leftovers to people we knew were on the streets,” said Murray. “On one of the first nights we went out to give an older lady a meal, she just started crying because she couldn’t understand why somebody would just come out and give her food or take the time to stop and talk to her.

“She said, ‘I’ve got to give you something,’ so she reached into her pocket and she gave us sixteen cents.”

The planning group of Faith Wesleyan Church saw a lesson in this experience, and from it the 16 Cents Ministry was born.

They went from delivering 8 meals to 130 in 1 ½ years.

“This prepared us for Church Under the Bridge,” said Murray. “Our first service had 250 attendees.”

While Murray was busy working hard around Greensboro, Lane, Pitre, Pruitt and others  were creating a ministry of their own, whether they knew it or not.

Knowledge of the church’s existence started to spread like wildfire throughout the campus, and volunteers began to flock to the site to help.

“I love the feeling of talking to people from totally different backgrounds and lifestyles, learning about how they think and how they feel,” said Pruitt.

The volunteers and donors come from corporations, churches and schools such as Guilford, Faith Wesleyan Church and many others.

The services are conducted by churches throughout the Triad, now over 40  houses of worship from a number of dominations.

“It doesn’t matter what religious background you come from, today we are all Christians,” says Murray before all Church services.

It is this attitude that travels throughout the natural and inviting setting that seems to attract not just people experiencing homelessness; but individuals from all walks of life.

“You are who you are,” said Lane. “You don’t have to act a certain way or be a certain way.”

Volunteers come from all walks of life, like volunteer Craig Robinson.

“I served three years on NightWatch Ministry through the Salvation Army and at the same time I started volunteering with the 16 Cents Ministry,” said Craig. “I found that I started spending more time here. I felt this is where I was needed.”

The same goes for attendees like Mike Robinson. He immediately tells me that he is not homeless, sort of.

“I’m lucky enough to live with someone,” said Mike.

Mike takes my hand, begins to pray with me.

“It’s okay, you’re safe here,” said Mike to me. “You’re home.”

Grace ends, and I search my bones for the objectivity I prayed for before I stepped foot on the grounds.

When you look into the crowd of parishioners, it can be hard to tell who is experiencing homelessness and who is not.

“You can’t tell who is who can you,” said Craig. “That’s a beautiful thing.”

Everyone is smiling and hugging, talking or eating. If you ask why they are here, they will all tell you “fellowship”.

“(This is) where Jesus would be on Saturday night,” said May.

The community takes turns singing in the microphone and collecting the donations of food and clothing that has been brought by Guildford volunteers, 16 Cents Ministry and other church volunteers. My version of God has spoken.

Guilford stands on its core values of Community, Diversity, Equality, Excellence, Integrity, Justice and Stewardship. While some may stand on campus and see mortar and brick, it may be time to cast away this veil, creating an open space, free of walls, similar to the Church Under the Bridge.

“Ministry is messy, but we have an example to go by,” said Craig. “God’s ministry landed him on a cross and this is my cross to bear.”

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About the Contributor
Naari Honor, Web Editor

English and Psychology Major, African American Studies Minor

When she is not warding off web gremlins, she enjoys writing for the Guilfordian, developing her amateur photography skills and freelancing around town. Naari listens to vinyl because it sounds better and always knew that narwhals existed before it appeared on the internet. Sports is her favorite section to write for, however, she is truly digging learning the inner workings of social media marketing and web design.

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