Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 2, 1992
Central's Prayer Services Awaken Faith, Reverence
By Thea Jarvis
Sunday nights are special at Central Presbyterians night shelter for men on Washington Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in southwest Atlanta.
Since spring of 1991, folks who come to Central for food and a place to sleep have found, in addition, a weekly opportunity for communal prayer. Led by clergy and laypersons from the broader Atlanta religious community, the ecumenical worship is fervent but simple, with posterboard song sheets and rudimentary cafeteria tables for an altar.
I am so moved by the faith of these people, Katie Bashor said of the men who attend the Sunday evening services. You can hear a pin drop in there. The men are very attentive.
Mrs. Bashor has coordinated volunteers for Central for the past eight years.
Her husband, Mar, who has been with the shelter since it opened in 1979 and now serves as its director, began services when volunteers from St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna asked for appropriate prayer to accompany the special meal they had prepared for Holy Saturday. Bashor became leader by default when no one else could be found, and a tradition was born.
The men were just so moved by it, Mrs. Bashor remembered. We were overwhelmed by their enthusiasm.
The Bashors are quick to point out that no one is compelled to attend shelter services; admission to Central is not contingent upon participation in Sunday evening prayer. Over the years, in fact, they have avoided introducing religious worship because of the stigma often attached to places where you dont eat until you pray, Mrs. Bashor explained.
It was the mens reverent response that signaled a welcome for prayer at Central.
On the first night, Mrs. Bashor said, one of the men spontaneously cleaned the tables to be used for the service.
We were about to start and he felt this need to prepare, she said, adding that the men lend their own personal dignity to the weekly event.
Each Sunday has brought increasing numbers to share in the prayer service. Central takes in some 60-65 men a night, Bashor said, and about 20 or so gather after supper to pray. The rest of the men are quiet, apparently listening.
Ranks are swelled by church volunteers and musicians who join the men on Sundays. On fourth Sunday of Advent, Father Steve Yander, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Atlanta, led the prayer service, accompanied by Sacred Hearts folk group. The volunteer crew was from Christ Our Hope Church in Lithonia.
I found the gentlemen to be really attentive, Father Yander said. They enjoyed it. It was easy for them to sing and there was a free response to the reflections I offered on the Word a lot of amens, a lot of affirmations. I wish we could get our people to do that!
Father Yander had acted in a volunteer capacity during one of Sacred Hearts several work nights at Central. The prayer service was his first at the shelter and he plans another this month.
Personally, I think its enriching of my own spiritual development, he said. People who have so little can show us the presence of the Lord in our lives more clearly than we who are so self-sufficient, who have so much in reserve.
The Bashors hope to make the prayer services as ecumenical as the rest of the shelter ministry. They currently draw on seminarians from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur as well as deacons and priests of the archdiocese of Atlanta, and hope to add more to that list. We are trying to get as many different people as we can, Mrs. Bashor said, respectful of the diverse backgrounds of those who stay at Central.
Mark and Katie Bashors two children, Ryan, 7 and Jesse, 5, sometimes accompany their parents to the shelter. Ryans first grade class at Fernbank Elementary recently made 150 sandwiches for the shelter as a community service project.
Its a family ministry, Mrs. Bashor said.
Central Presbyterians night shelter will expand to space in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception beginning Jan. 15, provided donations of food and volunteer time are forthcoming. Twenty to 30 additional guests are expected with the opening of the Shrine. To lend a hand, contact the Bashors at 373-8486 or 373-4265.