St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, Mississippi, was encouraged by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s message of evangelism in a video released the day after his installation. A couple of months later, they wondered why nothing had changed, and it dawned upon them: he wasn’t going to come and do it for them. In an open letter to the Presiding Bishop, the parish explains its response.
The realization that YOU weren’t coming to St. Paul’s to lead us outside the church was a jolt. We concluded that if we truly believed in your message, WE would have to become the agents of evangelism within our community.
So, together, we organized an event called “Southside Evangelism.” Our church is located in “Southside Columbus.” It is a historic, diverse neighborhood bordered by downtown, the Mississippi University for Women, and the Tombigbee Waterway. This neighborhood, our neighborhood, became our aim. Our goal was to simply remind them that we are neighbors, and we would like to get to know them. …
Eventually we settled into a groove. With more confidence our focus moved away from ourselves and towards our neighbors. We noticed hesitancy in people opening the door. Giving the pecans was often difficult; most people wanted to know how much they cost. As we told them the pecans were simply a gift from the church, their demeanor changed. First it was confusion, then shock, and finally the most basic Mississippi virtue, hospitality. Once people recognized our evangelism as hospitality, they, in turn, opened their doors. Many invited us in, wanting us to stay for coffee or tea. We offered hospitality and our neighbors reciprocated.
Find out more about St Paul’s continuing evangelism here. How has your church responded to the call to the streets?
Photo: St Paul’s does evangelism