Processional Cross Evangelism
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Processional Cross Evangelism
Page 6

More Drastic Steps

Procession CrossThe organist began quietly at first, gradually sliding out the stops until its booming chords thundered around the auditorium. Another cadet peered through the corner of a window. He was carefully observing the reaction of two women who happened to be chatting on the opposite side of the street. As our organ bellowed out its great crescendo of sound, they stopped, looked up to our window for the briefest moment, then resumed their gossip across the house fronts.

Indifferent Reactions

Deciding that even more drastic steps were necessary, I pushed open the big dusty windows on the roadside as wide as they would go. Still, our neighbors didn't come across to see what was happening! Finally, we marched the church's brass processional cross and our Church Army flag backward and forward past the open windows to the marching triumphal strains of the organ. We hoped our neighbors would believe that there was an elaborate procession going on inside, but still, they remained indifferent!

Side Street Church

Grace Church CincinnatiRay Lewis faces a challenge in ministry at an empty side street church in Grace Cincinnati. Later, I returned to one of the places I had visited, Cincinnati, to work in Grace Church Parish which was a side street church in the city. It had once been a well attended and flourishing congregation in a prosperous suburban area community. Now, as I stood before it, its shell lay empty and cold, a derelict husk of its former self. The reason? Hunger. The famine and poverty in Kentucky had spilled wave upon wave of tattered refugees into this neighborhood. They were looking for work and food. As the mountain folk moved into the area the Episcopalian congregation at Grace Church pulled out. Our whole community had now become a dilapidated slum and Grace Church sat empty and silent at its center.

Noisy Kids and Drunks

High Backed PewsGangs of noisy kids kicked cans along the sidewalk during the day, and drunks made their newspaper beds on our doorstep at night. Bloody street fights erupted on occasion outside our window! Tragedy abounded Baymiller and Findlay Streets, but this side street church was asleep. Dust gathered on the high backed pews standing in its wide nave. Only the whispered prayers of a few faithful ladies on Sunday mornings drifted in from a side chapel.

Pittsburgh Church Challenge

Saint Barnabas IconThe Bishop's Pittsburgh church challenge was to bring new life to this run down congregation in Ohio. The City's Welfare Department had wanted to use our deserted building to store food and clothing but the Bishop had protested. "There are all these people crowding into this area. If we are the church at all, we must find some way to bring them in!" His words had been my Pittsburgh church challenge. To mark this new era in the life of the Pittsburgh church challenge, our Bishop gave the church the new name of St. Barnabas was one of the prominent Christian disciples in Jerusalem. He was described as "the son of encouragement." Acts 11.24 describes him as "a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith."

A Large Glimmering Cross

Large Pipe OrganThe building, like the Saint, had a special message of hope, optimism and the Pittsburgh church challenge all of its own. From a tall spire, a large golden cross glimmered across the city in the evening sunshine. Our efforts to inspire our neighbors were arduous and sometimes funny. First, we went out to invite them to our church services, but few came. Next, we experimented with the unconventional. Opening the lid of our powerful pipe organ, one of my cadets started to play.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Pittsburg SkylineThe Church Army marches from Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburg on their send-off into Ohio. Left, right, left, right, our boots rattled the paving flags as we marched along on the Pittsburgh send-off. The Stars and Stripes fluttered bravely, our arms swung as one. Held proudly aloft, a bright red banner proclaimed, "GOD IS LOVE." Our splendid Pittsburgh "send-off" column wended away from Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh. A great crowd, led by the Bishop, had waved us off on our "Pittsburg Send-Off" journey. We hoped to cross Ohio, walking twenty miles every day, taking an evening meeting and staying overnight in Parish Halls. "We must have marched at least eight miles by now!" I told myself. "We must be almost halfway there!"

Fools for Christ

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral PittsburgThen, turning a corner, like a bombshell it hit us that we were only three blocks from the Cathedral gates! Red-faced, and in a shambles, we shuffled around and set off again, hopefully in the right direction this time. Puzzled motorists on the main highway gave us disbelieving stares as they drove by. Bothered by this, one cadet waved his peaked cap and shouted, "Yes, folks, we are crazy!" An English Captain bellowed in explanation, "Fools for Christ, Brother!" Onward we tramped on the Pittsburgh send off, week by week through the towns and cities of Ohio. Each place we visited brought a challenge and an opportunity.

"Processional Cross Evangelism"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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