MISSION & PHILOSOPHY


Church Beyond the Walls (CBW) is an ecumenical, street-church community called to build solidarity among people from all walks of life — housed and unhoused, poor and privileged, churched and unchurched. Our underpinnings are simple but powerful: a community life centered on the Eucharist, equal hospitality to all guests, and an altar where the broken become the Body of Christ.

With its roots in the Occupy movement, CBW has been, from its start, not a charity but a worshiping community. Our diversity encourages us to foster a culture of equality that transcends social differences. Early monastics described their communities as “schools of love.” For 1.5 hours a week we are such a school in downtown Providence, from which transformed individuals leaven other communities.

All at Church Beyond the Walls are invited into active roles in the community’s life, serving and served. We need folks to work both in front of and behind the scenes to make our common life possible — baking communion bread, for example, or helping with sandwich preparation. However, we believe our greatest gift is being a loving presence to others by offering our own vulnerability. Until we have been loved and served, we cannot truly love or serve the needs of others.

When working with members of other church communities, we strive for a spiritual formation experience and a relationship that goes beyond mere volunteerism. Those who come to us from indoor churches often comment on how much more they receive from CBW than they give. We are a community that works diligently to balance our need for outside help with our identity as an ecclesial community in our own right.

We invite all people who feel drawn to a socially integrated, outdoor worshiping community to come be with us in the park and see where the Spirit leads. People from all denominations and faith backgrounds are welcome to join in our shared vision of a community of solidarity for all people.

Jesus’s invitation to dine at a mixed table is not risk free, but it is transformative. At Church Beyond the Walls we are finding Living Water in Burnside Park. Indeed, there is no greater catalyst for social justice than the love of God!

OUR STORY SO FAR


Founded in late 2012 as an Episcopal presence to the people of Occupy Providence, CBW began with a small group from Church of the Epiphany, Rumford, under the leadership of the Rev. Edmund Harris, pulling a child’s wagon with coffee, sandwiches, and socks in Burnside Park.

On “Palm Saturday” of 2013, CBW offered its first Eucharist, and we have worshiped together weekly at 2 p.m. ever since, regardless of weather. In sunshine, rain, wind, and snow, the faithful gather on Saturday afternoons bearing witness to all who hunger for God’s love through just community.

CBW now regularly welcomes between 40 and 75 congregants at our weekly Eucharist. Following the liturgy, we share a light meal of sandwiches, bagels, snacks, fruit, and beverages. Our coffee hour provides an opportunity for relationships to deepen and grow between us. Everyone is welcome at our table whether or not they have joined in the Eucharist. Typically we bring 150 sandwiches, 100 snack cakes, 5 dozen bagels, 8 pots of coffee and an equal amount of hot cocoa. In summer, iced coffee and lemonade are served.

In the summer of 2014 Pastor Edmund moved to Seattle, Washington, and Waylon Whitley was invited to become CBW’s Missioner and Organizer. As a lay-led church, CBW works closely with a small rota of Episcopal and Lutheran clergy who minister sacramentally to our community. At our celebration of the Day of Pentecost in June 2014, CBW held its first baptisms, baptizing seven new members into the Body of Christ!

On November 8, 2014 Church Beyond the Walls was presented publicly as the first Specialized Mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island in over 100 years! Our growing partnership with our Lutheran sisters and brothers is also expanding the scope of our ministry in exciting ways, making CBW the state’s first joint regular worshiping community.

Relationships are at the heart of what will ultimately sustain the amazing work of this community. CBW is looking to form active partnerships with individuals and churches around the state of Rhode Island.