For months Pastor Frank had been scouring the English Avenue neighbourhood talking to a number of church officials in an attempt to find a congregation that would be willing and able to rent to us a room in its building.
You will remember that in October 2012 we started to make the move from a Bible study on the steps of the derelict church building to a monthly worship service, with the Bible study still being conducted outdoors on the remaining Sundays. At the beginning of December 2012 we started holding weekly services in the back room of a local convenience store as a result of the kindness of the Muslim store-owner. It had no electricity although an extension cord could be run through from the store. Eventually, however, there was no electricity in the store either so it could get quite dark in the back room, and on one occasion we had to locate the pulpit by an open door so that Pastor Frank could read his sermon notes in the dwindling daylight with the rest of us sitting in various levels of gloom. At times the owner did not show up to open the room at all so we would meet outside on the sidewalk or on a patch of grass behind the store. We always carried a number of folding chairs in the trunk of our car, as did Amy, so we were prepared for worshipping en plein air. This was never a serious problem as the Lord was very gracious and we were always pretty comfortable being outside. There was an overhang under which we could shelter from rain and from sun. One advantage to this setup was that passersby would occasionally join us even if only for a little while.
Eventually the Lord answered our prayers for a reliable indoor location and led us to Faith, Hope and Deliverance Temple, where the trustees offered us the floor below the sanctuary for $200 a month. It is on the edge of the English Avenue district, of which the Bluff is a part, situated on the corner of a four-lane highway and Brawley Drive. A few blocks north, at Brawley Drive and Kennedy Street (now called Cameron Alexander Boulevard), sits the derelict church building on whose steps we met for two and a half years.
We began meeting in our new location at the beginning of July. We are very comfortable in a room that has quite of bit of square footage, and is fresh and cheerful. There are tables which are very convenient for Sunday School and for the children as they are learning to take notes during the sermon. There is a low ceiling, however, with ductwork running along the middle of it. To begin with the pulpit was positioned one side of the ductwork and the congregation on the other. But every so often Pastor Frank would hit his head as he stepped forward to make an important point. But now, at the suggestion of one of our faithful attenders, we have turned the tables, literally, and this has taken care of the problem. This does necessitate some extra work in setting up before and after the service but we have willing helpers who assist us with this.
On Lord’s Day afternoons when the congregation of Faith, Hope and Deliverance Temple needs to use its church building for its own purposes we meet in the adjacent house which is owned by the church. It is comfortable for a group of about twenty people but on one occasion we had twenty-six and it felt pretty crowded. However, after having been turned down by so many churches, we are very grateful to these gracious people for giving a place to worship indoors.
The Lord has blessed the move. For more than a year we had been averaging about 13 people in attendance. When we moved to the church building that increased to 17. And for the five Lord’s Days in September we averaged 20.
We are blessed by the diversity of people who come to our services. Although not all are in attendance every week, we have, in addition to black and white folk, a young Hispanic boy, a young lady originally from India and, occasionally, some young people of Korean and Chinese heritage. We have various socio-economic groups represented, from middle class to destitute, and a broad educational selection from highly educated to illiterate. And we find we are serving two constituencies now. We have those who are hearing the true gospel for the first time and are being introduced to the Bible, learning memory verses and catechism. And we have mature Christians who attend not only to be of service and encouragement but because they appreciate the Reformed worship and the quality of the preaching.
Times of fellowship carry on long after the service has ended and it is a joy to see all these different groups interacting with and enjoying one another. We have all become used to hearing terms such as “black churches”, “white churches”, “Hispanic churches” etc. But this is just “the Lord’s church”. No-one feels uncomfortable as a result of his or her race or place in society.
As you may know, Pastor Frank is no longer pastor at Northminster, so he is concentrating more on reaching the downtown Atlanta community for Christ. Please pray for us, that the Lord would continue to bless this ministry and provide funding for such things as a permanent meeting place (maybe even a church building of our own) and improved transportation capabilities. We are attempting to meet some other needs of the community, holding such things as a “coat drive” in November, so please pray also that we would be given wisdom as to how to reach the community, especially the children, in additional ways.
Only the Lord knows what the future holds for Atlanta Presbyterian Fellowship. What we do know is that many of the local residents who attend morning worship in the area are subjected to the social gospel and even Jeremiah Wright-style black liberation theology. We are concerned that a lot of these folk have been raised with a “victim mentality” which, of course, goes along with an “entitlement mentality”. Many who have come to us and many who have left us have done so because they believed that they are entitled to whatever they can get, not least cash which, unless we are very careful, may be used to feed their drug habit. We admit that we have been swindled and we have learned hard lessons. But we are not giving up. These people, who love their free Obama money, their free Obama phones, free government services, and free church handouts, need to come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ not only for eternal reasons but for temporal ones as well. The children need to learn about the Christian ethic of working for a living, making goals and striving to reach them. They need to learn about keeping themselves pure for marriage and preparing themselves to be good parents. Pastor Frank’s current series of messages from the book of Proverbs is an attempt to point them in the right direction.
So, please continue to pray with us that hearts and lives may be changed by the faithful preaching of the Word, and that, as Pastor Frank likes to say, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will turn Atlanta upside down.