Filling the GAP: Ministry in historic church offers charitable services

Almost a year ago, historic Greene Street Presbyterian Church thought it was holding its last services. Over the years, the church has seen fewer and fewer parishioners as the area’s population drifted north and west.

But in an unexpected move, the elders of the church decided not to close the doors of the church to public services. Pastor Mark Deaton said that it was a relief to the people who most need the church and its services.

Deaton has spent seven years building up a ministry for the homeless; a job that he says is a delicate high-wire balancing act. While churches throw open their doors to all, not everyone will take advantage of their services.

“If you don’t do something that really targets homeless people, they will not come. They won’t feel welcome and they won’t come,” Deaton said. “If you get too many cars in the parking lot, people will pass by. One of the wonderful things about Greene Street is that it is a place where people do come.”

So while the church still does its regular Sunday mornings services at 10:30 a.m., on Sunday evenings they do things a little differently.

“We kind of do an evangelical service with the homeless population with a rock ‘n’ roll or gospel or jazz kind of presentation, music followed by dinner. We service usually about 50 to 60 people. It’s always an interesting service,” Deaton said. A Tuesday morning Bible study is also targeted towards the homeless.

The church also houses Greater Augusta Presbyterian (GAP) Ministries, the community outreach arm of the Augusta-area Presbyterian denomination. It provides emergency assistance and a soup kitchen to the low- and no-income community.

They also service about 40 families and individuals on Thursday mornings at their food pantry, and assist the needy with prescription medication that they may be unable to afford — but no narcotics or benzodiazepines.

“Food is plentiful. I feel good about giving out food. If people have medicine, that means they care about their health and I have a conversation about something that is real,” Deaton said.

The historic church building needs repairs to continue its work. Historic Augusta places them on their list of the most endangered buildings in the area. Deaton cycles through a wish list of issues that need to be addressed: “We still need to resurrect the pipe organ and there is supposedly an ancient carillon in the tower. The tower needs some paint and somethings like that. We’re still working on the roof.”

The church also needs two air conditioning and heating units and then Deaton thinks an architect could help by doing some assessments to prioritize maintenance and repair.

Deaton is proud of the church’s historyand construction — the acoustics are so perfect that the Atlanta Opera recorded its performances there in the 1940s. But when Calhoun Expressway was built, it sliced across the church’s main entrance.
“We need a new façade on Ellis Street if we’re going to be a monument to the past,” Deaton said.

Historic Augusta Peep ‘N’ Eat
Greene Street Presbyterian Church
Sept. 12 at noon
Free for Historic Augusta members
$5 for non-members


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