Not all heroes have capes. Not all pastors have pulpits.
If you shave down the niceties, the comforts and the luxuries many churches enjoy and employ in their worship, and bring the concept of “church” to the bare minimum, what do you have? What is a church, at its very core?
The answer you get may vary a little depending on who you ask, but many people would say that it’s a group of people coming together to worship and learn about God.
The Community of St. Joseph might not fit some people’s notion of a “church,” but the group is faithfully doing the Lord’s work every Sunday morning for a group that desperately needs care and recognition.
Even Kevin Veitinger, the pastor, admits that he doesn’t quite fit the mold.
“I’m a little different than your typical pastor,” he told WJCL, “especially one you’ll find in the Bible Belt.”
That’s because The Community of St. Joseph serves the homeless community, and takes up its station in an empty field next to a homeless camp in Savannah, Georgia. With a simple setup including folding tables and a wooden cross, Veitinger brings Jesus to the needy.
Started in October 2015, the group’s Facebook page states that it is “A ministry with the homeless in Savannah, GA every Sunday for breakfast at 8:00AM and worship at 8:30 off of Louisville Rd & Pritchard St along the canal.”
The goal is to feed both body and soul, as well as recognize the humanity in a group that often gets ignored.
“Everybody is our neighbor,” the pastor urges. “It’s important to know we have neighbors living on the streets every day. They’re as much a neighbor as the people who live next to us.”
“Ever since I’ve been coming here, I’ve tried not to miss one Sunday,” Daniel Glover, a parishioner, said in a 2016 interview. “It’s a great way to break the stress of the week.
“You come up here and you see all the wonderful people and we’ve got a wonderful pastor and he gives a good sermon every Sunday. And we all love each other here, it’s just like one big family.”
Many in the local homeless community are invited to participate in ways they might not if they walked into a brick-and-mortar church. This church is for them, and while it may not have walls or air conditioning, they are welcomed to help with the music and readings, to really be a part of things.
Veitinger says that, ideally, the residents of the tent city would be able to find more stable housing situations, but he knows that it’s the first difficult step of many to help the homeless community beat their demons, find work and assimilate back into society.
And his end goal? To disband the church — for one specific reason.
“Hopefully one day, this church isn’t needed,” he said. “We have everyone in a safe place, and we don’t need to have churches in homeless camps.”
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