No Altar, No Pews, Not Even a Roof, but Very Much a Church

From an article of the same title by Neela Banerjee in the NY Times:

While churches have long provided meals, occasional shelter and indoor worship services for the urban homeless, a small but growing number of congregations now recognize that many homeless people will not attend traditional services indoors. So these congregations now go outdoors to bring church to the homeless and anyone else who happens along.

"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."

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.

The worship service lasts 15 to 20 minutes. People line up for Communion (expect grape juice, not wine) and then lunch on two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each, along with chips, fruit and water. Office workers sometimes stop by. Street Church volunteers hand out bulletins as they would to congregants at a Sunday service, and stay afterward to eat and talk with whoever shows up.

I think this is a very good trend...churches venturing out to minister to the least of these rather than expecting them to come in.