As disciples of the Risen Christ, we are called to attend to the poor, break the chains of the oppressed, and advocate for a just and peaceful society. God calls the church to carry our faith into the world through lives of service and partnership with our neighbors.
We are committed to strengthening local mission partnerships. Some of the organizations with whom we work include, Presbyterians for a Better Georgia, Central Outreach and Advocacy Center, the Central Night Shelter, Outcry Interfaith Voices Against Violence, and Georgia Interfaith Power and Light.
As a church that strives for discipleship through engagement and advocacy in the city of Atlanta, we give our time and energy to four key mission areas: Homelessness, Care for Creation, LGBTQ persons, and Criminal Justice.
For more information about this ministry, contact Pastor Associate Molly McGinnis.
Last summer, we offered three concrete ways to make an impact on the lives of our neighbors, including the chance to impact a neighborhood close to Central, support families coming out of homelessness, and provide a way to give back to families facing the criminal justice system. Thank you to all who supported these causes!
What is Courtyard Hospitality?
We began serving fresh bread with coffee in the courtyard about a year ago. It seems like a natural extension for our hospitality, and for me the reason is simple, it represents an extension of the table from our sanctuary to the world nearest to us, the homeless who find refuge in the shelter of the church.
The table is really central to our worship as we display the symbols of the meal every Sunday. And the meal is the remembrance of reconciliation and grace which meets all of us in our brokenness. A recent story in the Memphis Flyer told of a woman taken into custody on the steps of Idlewild Presbyterian Church. The story told of her being mocked and ridiculed for sweeping the steps, while also not wearing any clothes.
Here is a lightly edited version of Rev. Stephen R. Montgomery’s response:
I will explain it quite simply: mental illness, alcoholism, homelessness. And she has a name. Her name is Marilyn.
At Idlewild, we have loved her, fed her, counseled with her, tried to refer her for some help, cautioned her, and have even had to use “tough love” at times. For we dare to believe that beneath all that brokenness is a beloved child of God.
It was disheartening, even shameful at times, to hear the ridicule and the laughter that this evoked, for it is not funny. The homeless and the mentally ill are the lepers of our day, and they are ignored at best, scapegoated and abused by a narcissistic culture at worst.
Jesus was as clear as day toward the end of his life when he told a parable about what was truly important. “When did we see you hungry…or naked?” Today I hear him asking “When did we see you mentally ill and homeless? As you did it unto the least of these, our brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
For we are all broken in one way or the other. Some are able, with our privilege, to hide it better than others. That is why we extend the table to our neighbors in the courtyard and meet them on their terms. We serve hot coffee, cold water, cream in china pitchers and a hardy version of fresh homemade cinnamon raisin bread. Our neighbors gather as friends, seated in groups around the courtyard in a safe place to talk about sports, politics, religion and what is going on where they live out their daily lives. We have learned each others stories, ones that can only be shared in a safe place, and so often it ends “thank you, God bless you, no one else treats us like this, can I take some extra bread for later?”
We are not solving homelessness through this courtyard hospitality, but we are serving our brothers and sisters when we extend the table to where they are in a daily struggle of survival on the streets; manifesting God’s humanity to the least of these and sharing brokenness before the gift of reconciliation and grace, amazing grace.
Written by Cal Engstrom
Cal is a member of the Local Missions Committee and a member at CPC