Praise in the Park
Church takes over popular outdoor downtown venue
By Layla Garms
Members of Mount Sinai Full Gospel Deliverance Center turned Winston Square Park into an outdoor church Friday evening.
The popular downtown park, which is adjacent to the Sawtooth School, was the latest site for a monthly summer outreach initiative that takes the Gospel to the streets and various locations throughout the city.
The church, which is home to some 250 members, puts a high premium on reaching beyond the four walls of its 2721 Manchester St. edifice, said Rev. Yvonne Hines, who has led the congregation since her husband, Mt. Sinai Founding Bishop John Hines, passed away in 1995.
“We go into various areas of the community and just connect with people,” Rev. Hines said. “We just want to share our faith through sharing some love.”
The outreach initiatives have varied each month. During May, a Mother’s Day flower giveaway was held. There was also a hospital outreach program where congregants visited with families of Intensive Care Unit patients. At all of the events, the church’s Community Outreach Team interacts with the people they encounter, and often give away gas and grocery store gift cards, help connect people with job training and support services and offer words of prayer and encouragement.
Friday’s event was a loosely structured gathering that featured music by Eccelsia, the church’s special choral group, and left plenty of time for audience members and congregants to converse and interact.
“It’s good, clean downtown fun,” Hines declared. “We just want the community to know that there are still people around who care about what happens to humankind … we feel that the whole city is our neighborhood and the more we can do everywhere, the more impactful we’ll become.”
City native Clarissa Mitchell coordinates Mount Sinai’s many outreach efforts.
Mitchell, a head technician at the Wake Forest Baptist pharmacy, said the outreach events aren’t intended to necessarily attract members to the church, but instead to be of service to people in the community, whatever their needs may be.
“It’s low key – it’s not us trying to push people to come (to church). If they want to, they can, but if they don’t, then that’s fine too,” said the mother of one. “I’m just hoping that people will experience the joy and the love of Jesus Christ by coming and experiencing this time.”
The event attracted some attention from the bustling downtown crowd on Friday. Lexington resident Mary Benoist had brought her boyfriend, Brian Goldsmith, and two daughters Savannah, 7 and Lillian, 4, downtown to eat at a popular restaurant. They were drawn to park while they waited for a table.
“It’s a great event,” Benoist said.
Sisters-in-law Lola Young of Rocky Mount and Geneva Young of Amityville, NY were in town for a funeral when they stumbled across the event and decided to stay awhile.
“We came for a walk and we stopped because we heard the music,” explained Geneva, a paralegal. “It’s very inspiring.”
“I haven’t been here on a Friday night before, but it’s good,” added Lola, a retired social worker who also brought along her six year-old great-nephew, T’Andre Williams. “I’m enjoying myself.”
Hosanna House of Transition CEO/Founder Sandra Oliver brought seven residents out to Friday’s event. The nonprofit offers shelter (at Water Oaks apartment complex), counseling and job placement services to homeless people, recovering drug addicts and ex-offenders. Oliver, who is a recovering addict herself, said the event offered a break from Hosanna House’s weekly Friday Night Bible Study.
“I know of Mount Sinai and I know they have good worship and Pastor Hines is a good Biblical teacher,” Oliver said. “I think this is neat. The diversity (of people) it’s bringing together, that’s what I like about it. We can start something together on what we’ve got in common instead of our differences, and that’s what I like about getting them out.”
Hines told the dozens in attendance Friday that she hoped Mount Sinai could continue to be of service to them.
“This is only the beginning of our relationship with you,” she said before closing the event in prayer. “However we can be of assistance to you in the future, please let us know.”