by Brian Wilcox
Over the summer, my co-worker Trevin and I have had the privilege of attending Street Church. Attending on a weekly basis, we began to become part of this tightly woven community. To a one time visitor, the community is an inspiration and a breath of fresh air. To a regular attendee it is hope for a broken city.
Attending on a regular basis meant the people became more than faces; they became our friends. As relationships and the community continued to grow it was becoming apparent that this was more than something we did on Sunday mornings. It had become a community we were invested in.
For those that don’t know, Street Church is a small community driven church that meets in the streets of the Old Town Mall area of Baltimore. This area, gang & drug over-run, is being reclaimed by the gospel through this caring community. As a ministry of extreme urban mission, Street Church has been growing for the past three years. It all started when two people sat in the Old Town Mall holding “Need Prayer?” signs. This simple act drew people in, and Street Church was born.
Last week, something amazing happened. As part of Trevin and I’s love for this community, we used our connection with Serve the City Baltimore to form a partnership. In-line with Serve the City’s vision of only working with already existing organizations, they supported Extreme Urban Mission by sending people and resources to serve this festival. The idea was simple, work with members of the community to clean up the Old Town Mall area, and offer food and prayer to all of those that passed through. Crazy enough it worked! If we had just sent volunteers to clean up, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. Having men from the community come out and serve with the volunteers builds a sort of sweat equity. The men now take ownership of what they’ve done; creating a sustainable long term investment into the community.
The response at Street Church the following morning was un-real. Those who had cleaned up, now had a strong sense of accomplishment. Those who weren’t there, were in awe of what happened, wishing they had been a part of it. A dark overgrown corner, once used to shoot heroin, was now engulfed with light so that nothing can be hidden. An overgrown fountain, out of commission for some time, was transformed into a place for Church to be held the following morning. A trash can, that hadn’t been emptied in years, was now accessible for the sanitation department to pick up, relieving a stench that had overtaken the area. The physical differences were impressive, but the psychological impact was astounding. Anyone working in a community development field can tell you, the only way to make a true impact in a community is to get members of the community involved. This is exactly what happened at the Old Town Mall last Saturday.
Only time will tell what lasting difference this event made; but I am confident that the members of the community will continue to step-up and take ownership of this area. As this community provides a hope for the Old Town Mall, I hope this community can extend beyond this area and provide hope for the rest of Baltimore.
About the Author
As Serve the City Baltimore (STC) was just starting up, Brian was oversees interning with Serve the City Brussels. Already knowing the Serve the City system and bringing an array of media and design skills to the table, Brian has been a great fit since he officially joined the team in 2010. Brian is going into his senior year at Lynchburg College studying Electronic Media Communication Studies and Graphic Design. You can find Brian on twitter @bWilcox424