The prayers of a riverbank preacher have been answered, after the city’s parks director agreed to let his church conduct outdoor services for the homeless on public land.
Parks boss Doug Marter yesterday issued a permit absolving the church of a bylaw infraction against holding a gathering in a public park, which means Sunday services on the riverbank across from the Drop-In Centre now have the city’s blessing.
"There’s no residential area near that park – it’s actual fairly industrial around there – and there’s no conflict with other park users, so we didn’t see it was a major problem," said Marter, the acting director of the Parks Department.
"I’m issuing an approval for them to conduct services on Sundays."
The conflict between the city and Street Church, where Rev. Kelly-William Watson is a pastor, started last Sunday, when a complaint to the city’s bylaw department forced a city officer to warn the ministry against further gatherings without a permit.
Watson says previous attempts to get a permit were refused due to the religious nature of the services, which have attracted hundreds of homeless people through prayer, song and river baptisms.
But Marter said there is no such ban on religious use of parks, and there must have been a misunderstanding, now solved.
Watson, who has been conducting the 2 p.m. services for the past four months, said he’s pleased to have the city’s support.
"It’s amazing. We believe it’s our call of duty. Sometimes, there are hurdles, but things have a way of working out in the end," said Watson.
Bylaw boss Bill Bruce said he’s quite happy to see that area of green space, often frequented by drug users, being put to positive use, and he’ll even be sending an officer or two down to see if the church needs any assistance.
"They’re not hurting anyone, so why not?" said Bruce.
The Calgary Sun
Saturday, August 27, 2005