Amy Brocato Pearson
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Last Sunday, the wind whipped beneath the overpass of Jackson Street, where it crosses Commerce in downtown Jacksonville.
But some assembled under the bridge that morning preferred to think of the movement as the Holy Spirit.
"God is truly working in our hearts. Thank God for people like you," sad Jacksonville resident Linda Chandler via Facebook. "Praying each day for the word to go all over and someone in need of his word will be saved."
Last Sunday for the first time, and for every Sunday in the future, Worship Under the Bridge convened in their open-air celebration center at 11:30 a.m. to sing, hear God's message and share fellowship with each other, said organizer Donnie Hammock of Jacksonville.
The calling for Worship Under the Bridge came about a year ago, according to Hammock.
"God had been leading me to do something more, to go out into the community spreading His word instead of being confined by the four walls of a church," Hammock said.
The purpose of Worship Under the Bridge is to share the word of God with people who are not already attending a church or who don't know anything about Christ.
"This is the best outreach idea I've seen in a long time," said Paul Bolt of Arlington, via Facebook.
The mission is not to draw people who already have a church home, Hammock stressed (although they are welcome), but to reach out to the ones who do not have a relationship with Christ.
"We're just seeing how God is leading us week by week," Hammock said. "I believe God is going to open doors for us. So many things have happened since last Sunday that have confirmed this is what God has lead us to do."
The service opens with congregational praise and worship singing led by Lucas Shidler, Steve Brand, Deena Brand and Tiffany Hammock. After that, Hammock, who has been an ordained minister since 1992, shares a "short message about Christ" based on "whatever leans on my heart," he said. There are other "counselors" available to talk to anyone who wants to know more about God or the worship service. They take prayer requests and physical requests to see if there is need they can help meet in the community.
Hammock reports that there was a hugely diverse group the first Sunday and he's expecting more and more people as word spreads. He's shared the news about Worship Under the Bridge through Facebook and via word of mouth.
"Living in a small town it doesn't take long for things to spread," he said.
Hammock emphasized he's not the only driving force behind the service. A "pretty extensive group of people have come on board to help," he said, including: Jamie and Cindy Slovacek, Billy and Sheila Bateman, Cindy Browning, Joe and Crystal Shilder, Randy and Shellie McCown, Paul and Jayne Carr, Stacy, Jason, Emily and Lucian Price, Andy, Khristie and Carter McCown, Luke and Katie McCown, Samantha and Eva Hammock, Mark Bolton, Andy and Traci Luster and Ben and Lindsey Terry.
"Right now we're not a 'church,' we're spreading the gospel," Hammock said.
Hammock, whose full-time job is executive director of the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties, wants to invite everyone to attend Sunday's service. Some chairs are available, but you can bring your own. Come as you are, he emphasized.
"We're hoping this expands and the Lord Jesus reaches out to our community in Jacksonville and fulfills the needs of our residents and makes this a better, stronger place to live," he said.