“Welcome to the concrete cathedral,” boomed the six-foot plus bearded man in a robust voice.
As the service began, people milled around greeting friends and waving to acquaintances on their way to pick up a pastry and cup of coffee. Some sat on the curb, close enough to hear but far enough to be on the outskirts. And one woman curled up in her cardboard box.
Another Sunday. Another service at Church Under the Bridge.
Although the calendar said June 30, the overcast sky and cool breeze were a pleasant surprise as Beau preached how God is so generous with His grace, despite our undeserving state.
I often write about the people I meet at CUB, the moments that strike me or the stories I won’t forget, but today I thought I’d share how it all comes together.
Each fifth Sunday in a month, the morning starts at 7:45 a.m. with announcements, devotional and prayer time. And then we hit the ground running preparing lunch for 400. Whether it’s the assembly line dropping oranges, cookies and bottled water in a grocery sack, or the kitchen crew making hot dogs, stew or whatever is on the menu, it takes a lot of hands to make lunch.
But lunch wouldn’t be possible without the incredible kitchen staff at Hyde Park. Renee always puts a special touch on the meal. Usually in the form of homemade cookies, and in the case of Easter weekend, you guessed it…400 Easter eggs. If you have not had the fortune of eating Renee and Maudie’s cooking, you are missing out in life. And that’s pure fact.
Along with the homemade lunch, each person receives a hand written love note in their bag. Doesn’t that have Bonnie Ray written all over it? She used to write me love notes in my lunch for school, and our friends under the bridge love it.
While volunteers prep food and write notes, we also have a team assembling hygiene kits. Church members donate toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, lotion, Chapstick, sunscreen, socks, Band-Aids…you name it. We fill a Ziploc full of necessities that come in really handy on the street.
And while all that’s going on, Dad and a handful of men load up the trucks with coffee and the tables and head downtown to set up under I-35 between 6th and 7th street, right across the street from APD.
The service includes a praise and worship time (the musicians are great, and volunteer every week), a sermon, discussion time and then lunch. We also have a prayer table set up where people can stop by and chat and pray. Those requests are shared with the prayer team at Hyde Park. We also distribute Bibles and reading glasses.
Did I mention our volunteers are great? What’s really cool is to see volunteers meet people under the bridge. Some are homeless on the street. Some are in a temporary shelter. Some are working but just can’t get ahead. Some are mentally ill. But as the volunteers get to know them, they become attuned to their basic needs. The next trip downtown, a volunteer might throw a backpack or a pair of tennis shoes they never wear in their trunk. Then when they meet someone at CUB who could desperately use a new pair of shoes because theirs were stolen at the shelter, it’s an easy way to show a little love.
By the time the last lunches are distributed, it’s time to pack it all up. Once everything is back in storage or what we like to call “the CUB closet,” it’s time to call it a day around 1:30 p.m. and head to P. Terry’s for lunch. And believe me, there’s always stories to share over lunch.