Churches getting together for Saturday block party

Churches work together sometimes, but a Saturday project is a study in contrast.

Calvary Baptist is an imposing brick edifice with big white pillars that stands on a rise above Ruskin Drive, an anchor thoroughfare for one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Eighteenth Street Community Church is also brick, but it is no bigger than a bungalow, with a footprint smaller than Calvary’s portico and a congregation to match, located in a former bar in a struggling neighborhood that has only recently begun to gain ground.

But they’re holding a joint block party Saturday in that struggling neighborhood, after the pastor of the big suburban church reached out to the pastor of the little inner-city congregation and offered to help.

“Cooler than you can believe,” said Pastor Paul Johnson of the church on 18th Street. “Folks on one side of town coming together with folks on the other side of town and just doing a good thing together.”

Contemplating it recently brought him and Calvary Pastor Larry Weaver to tears, he said.

It grew out of a Calvary deacons’ meeting, when one attendee asked how Calvary could interact with other churches in the community, Weaver said.

Church member Tom Brubaker suggested getting together with the Eighteenth Street Community Church.

He did so because he’d grown up on 18th Street, not far from the little church, and Brubaker’s mother – who has since died – took a particular interest in it, Weaver said.

The building began as St. Barnabas, an outreach of St. Luke’s Episcopal across town, Johnson said.

The tavern period – first as Champ’s Cafe, then as Billy Moore’s – lasted 30 years, he said.

During that time, Brubaker’s mother wanted to see it return to its original purpose, Weaver said.

It has under Johnson, who ministers especially to people who have had a hard time with their lives.

Brubaker’s suggestion fell on fertile ground at the deacons’ meeting, after which Weaver went to 18th Street to visit, leaving a note on the door asking Johnson to call.

“A door hanger,” Johnson said.

When the pastors got together, they talked and prayed.

The help from Calvary actually began when a crew of construction-savvy members removed a disused chimney that was causing leaks in the roof of the smaller church.

Then the subject of the block party came up.

Johnson’s church has been holding one for years.

This year’s version, with Calvary’s help, will be bigger and better.

Calvary is bringing a climbing wall, a snow cone machine and a popcorn machine, Johnson said.

There will be hot dogs and orange juice, face painting, music, basketball and a prayer table where attendees can share their worries, the pastors said.

Johnson had been hoping for something like this.

So had Weaver, according to Johnson.

“I see it as the church doing what the church does,” Johnson said, speaking in the broadest sense. “All of us working together the way the Lord expects.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.