Providence ‘street church’ adapts to social distancing

A different type of worship has been put on hold for over a month on the streets of Providence because of the social distancing guidelines handed down to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It’s a so-called street church named The Church Beyond the Walls. For the last seven years services have been held at Burnside Park every Saturday afternoon.

“We never missed a Saturday. Blizzards, torrential rain, freezing below zero weather, we’ve been there,” said Pastor Linda Forsberg, the current minister leading worship.

Forsberg, a Lutheran minister, is the third head of the church. It started during the Occupy Providence movement with two Episcopal pastors handing out supplies to protesters.

“They brought this really practical stuff down and a little community gathered and they had worship and they shared the food,” she said. “They brought hot coffee they had a little red flyer wagon, that’s how it started, with some sandwiches, some hot coffee, holy communion.”

The church did not stop the weekly services and the focus was shifted on the homeless population, providing meals to them after each service.

“Especially people living in poverty, homelessness, who may feel like they weren’t dressed properly walking into a regular church,” Forsberg told ABC 6.

Because of current social distancing restrictions, Forsberg has not led the congregation in worship since late March and she said it’s been a tough adjustment.

“People living in poverty and homelessness many of them they don’t have computers. They don’t have technology,” she said.

But that didn’t stop Forsberg and her team from continuing their outreach even with the pandemic shutting everything down.

“We started making bag lunches and we started putting little prayer cards in each bag. We used masks and gloves and all the precautions,” Forsberg said.

The pastor will now be spreading out as her team will hit the streets of Providence this Saturday spreading the word and feeding the homeless.

“Be present in other ways to show up and like ‘hey here I am. I’m with you,'” she said.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Regional News, Rhode Island