They come to the garden together

El Buen Pastor, St. Philip’s Episcopal and First Presbyterian take turns leading summer services
Jul. 16, 2014 @ 08:44 AM

On Wednesday evenings this summer, the skies have threatened above, but on the ground, prayer services continue at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.

Held in the church’s community garden at Main and Dillard streets, weather permitting, the mid-week summer services are a collaboration between St. Philip’s, Iglesia El Buen Pastor, First Presbyterian Church and Urban Ministries of Durham. UMD’s shelter and community kitchen is next door to St. Philip’s on the garden side, and First Presbyterian is down the East Main Street block on the other. El Buen Pastor is located on Liberty Street.

Last week, people began to gather at the same time clouds overhead gathered as well. In the garden, tomatoes, cucumbers, thyme, rosemary and sunflowers blossomed. A loud thunderclap drove the people inside the sanctuary.

Rev. Jose Sierra, pastor of El Buen Pastor, led the service. Congregations take turns each week. The bulletins are printed in English and Spanish. On the front are the words, “I’m Part of Durham’s Beloved Community,” with a photograph of the garden. All are welcome to attend.

Services began June 11 and continue Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. through July 30. Rev. Marilyn Hedgpeth of First Presbyterian said one service was held quickly before the rain, and another service was held inside when it began to rain. Last week, a summer storm cloud hovered above, letting out a louder crack of thunder once the gathering was moved into the Episcopal church’s sanctuary.

The service began with a prayer for the community. Sierra shared a short sermon based on Matthew 6:25-34, from the New Testament. As he spoke in Spanish, his words were translated in English by Javier Almendarez Bautista, discipleship programs coordinator at St. Philip’s. The reading from Matthew was about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

We can see clearly the focus of Jesus’ three years of ministry, Sierra said.

“Pour your whole heart and soul into the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice,” he said. What we see the church community doing in Acts, by sharing according to each person’s need, Sierra said, is what it means to seek first the kingdom of God. It is possible, he said.

“There was one person who lived then and showed us the way…His name was Jesus,” Sierra said.

Jesus taught that service is more important than power, he said.

As the service came to a close, words were said in unison in both English and Spanish: “Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.” And at the same time, others said, “Vela, oh amantisimo Senor, con los que trabajan, o velan, o lloran esta noche. A tus angeles manda que guarden a los que duermen.”

Hedgpeth said the summer services grew out of another effort, a collaborative Beloved Community festival, and then last summer weekly dinners on Sundays.

“With the weather factor, we decided this year to simplify it and have it out here in the community garden, and take turns leading,” she said. As many as 50 people have attended.

Rev. Jonah Kendall, rector of St. Philip’s, said after the service that having the worship service has really created an atmosphere of equality, and in previous services there had been several people from UMD, too.

“Hopefully this will be the seeds of what’s to come,” he said.

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