At any given moment, Church for all People is filled with living and breathing witnesses to the transformative power of mutuality. One such example is Paul Parker, who tells his story in his words, using the vernacular language of his community. Out of respect for his experience and the spiritual wisdom it communicates, we report his story just as he spoke it.
In 1994 I was in shelter and I heard somebody talk about ‘free store’ and I say “Get out of here, ain’t nothing free around here!” I came up here to check it out and sure enough, they had like breakfast, and then I went in [to the store]and everything was free…
I liked it so well, so I found they had like a little church. So I asked Pastor, “Look can I come visit your church?” So then, when I came, I liked the service and everything. Then the following service I asked them “Could I sing?” So he let me have the opportunity to sing… I’m glad he opened the door for me for that. So I got involved with this church. I joined the church and I got involved with a lot of things by helping out. Then, my main job here is like, the fresh market where we pass out about – we get about 10,000 pounds of food every Tuesday, and we pass it out to the community. And you know, just to see smiles on the people’s faces, make us happy. At least me anyway. And I met so many nice people through being into the market…. And I just felt so good about myself….
My experience with this church is awesome …. I been to other churches and other churches don’t make me feel like this church. What I mean by that? There is so much love here. When I first came in, people didn’t even know me ask “How you doing? Glad you’re here! Come back.” II like that stuff. I was in [a different]church and no one even recognized me. I was [just]the new guy, the new kid on the block, you know.
[Now] I’m the hospitality guy! I make people feel welcomed just like they made me feel. And people love coming… Sometime when I’m not here, people say, “Where Paul at? Where Paul at?” That makes me feel good that people recognize me, of being a good person. And I keep smiles on people faces because, that’s how we is. We like that to see people come in with a smile and leave with a smile. And due to the fact that our church here, everybody is all get-along with each other, like a family.
You can come as you are. This church … don’t look at you no kind of way. They just glad to see somebody, you know what I’m saying. That’s why I like this church because they never look at no clothing, no nothing, no color … We don’t look at nobody race or nothin like that. Like that sign say, “For all people”, and that’s what it is. All people. All people welcome to come here. And we don’t look at you no different. We take you as you are.
Paul’s Story is part of GCORR’s Church to Community with Church for All People.