What if you’re homeless and don’t feel you fit in at an indoor church? Well, a growing network (50+) of outdoor churches (mainly in the Americas) have a solution! They run church services outside, not in a church building, all year round, in all weathers. They have a huge impact on people:
“Thank you for the work you do with those on the streets. It does make a difference. I know that from my own experience. I remember those preaching and singing, especially those out in the cold with us.” (Phoenix, Vancouver, 2013, quote used with permission).
Gloucester Outdoor Church, UK!
Since April 2014 this church has been running outdoor services for street and housed folk in Gloucester. Click here for a brief history of our services and some photos. We personally want to thank all the people who have prayed for us, donated time and material goods to us, and supported us. Without you we couldn’t have done it.
Outdoor church … on a bus!
The Church on the Bus meets … on a bus! Covering Chesterfield and other places in the north of England, they come under the branch of the Anglican Church called the Church Army.
Ecclesia started with Common Cathedral in Boston and have spread to a network of churches mainly based in North and South America. Many of them are Episcopalian but other denominations are included too.
An example outdoor church in America
The following pictures show church services at the Madison Square Park Congregation of Ecclesia Ministries of New York. Sacraments for the streets!
First, people gather. In other churches they might gather in a circle, under a canopy, in a bandstand or a car park. Worship might use Sunday School classics or simple melodies. Having the same liturgy in each service gives people a sense of continuity to disrupted lives.
Next, James reads the Bible, and a sermon is preached. In many outdoor churches the gospels are used, following the lectionary, and sermons are short, with comments from the congregation afterwards adding richness to the message (James 2:5).
Communion or the Eucharist is offered to everyone: an extremely important and meaningful part of the service. A song may be sung to finish. At different times of the year, festivals like Palm Sunday are celebrated, giving people a sense of rootedness in a rootless world.
Catholic, Anglican and Episcopalian outdoor services
Most but not all of these North American outdoor churches for homeless and housed people are Episcopalian, Anglican and Catholic.
“Lift the City” was a Catholic Eucharistic flashmob in Preston, UK. Click on the image on the right to find out more. One man read about how Jesus is revealed in each book of the Bible while a crowd adored Jesus. A similar Eucharistic Flash event was held in Downey, California, in December 2011, for Christmas. Find out more here. There is a Catholic outdoor church called Church in the Park, Fort Myers, Florida.
There is an Anglican Street Mass Ministry in Rio de Janeiro amongst the homeless (scroll to the bottom of this page).