The scum of the earth need money, big money! Not the loose change or occasional dollar thrust into dirty hands at city stoplights.
So, you say, “What’s new? Down-and-outers always have their hands out.” But this scum of the earth isn’t your garden-variety derelict, hustler, druggie and brown-toothed beggar … though some are.
This Scum of the Earth is an urban church/hang-out located deep in a city’s arts district off Santa Fe Drive in Denver, Colo. And due to fire safety infractions in this old church edifice, the congregation was abruptly evicted from its hard-earned and miraculously acquired home.
Well over a stunning $250,000 is needed to bring the building up to code. The flock does not have in itself the ability to reclaim and inhabit the property.
Scum, founded a decade ago, was named by Saint Paul who wrote to the first-century church at Corinth: “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”
Denver’s Scum of the Earth Church embraces “the left out and right-brained” and includes those who are black, white, brown, red, yellow, green and fuchsia – depending on their ethnicity and tattoos. Others are orange or purple no thanks to the amount of booze or other controlled substances consumed during a life on the streets.
On any given Sunday, paramedics or cops might show up, but not to worship.
Then there are the pasty-faced suburbanites, young professionals, college kids and regular folks who also attend, hungry for truth. One congregant is a bona fide distinguished professor of New Testament who keeps the rest of his Scum buddies on the straight and narrow doctrinal path.
This motley, and not-so-motley, crew is helmed by Senior Pastor Mike Sares, a big-hearted Greek who found himself jobless when leadership in a nearby Presbyterian church asked for his resignation due to his preoccupation with the city’s young disenfranchised – who would soon formally don the biblical mantle, “Scum of the Earth.”
And so this remarkable and most unconventional church was born and grew … and grew.
Without funds typical of prosperous denominations, Scum had to borrow donated lodgings until two years ago. Then, thanks to sacrificial giving and the generosity of a ministry that buys old church buildings purposefully to repopulate with financially strapped congregations, Scum of the Earth joyously purchased its presently unoccupied home – a once-beloved, very old Spanish church at 935 East 11th Avenue in Denver.
For two years the church building “was used for meals, church services, weddings, theology classes, bicycle repair (!), men’s and women’s ministries, dance parties and clothing exchanges.”
But, alas, a neighborhood curmudgeon alerted the Denver Fire Department to possible fire code infractions. Though in compliance with zoning ordinances, the 130-year-old church building had lost previous exemptions from modern-day fire codes. Unknowingly, Scum of the Earth Church was in violation and thus the recent eviction.
Scum does not pass around the proverbial plate during services; many of its parishioners aren’t flush enough to contribute. Instead a few sanctified (read “washed”) Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets sit here and there hoping to be fed.
Bake sales and benefit concerts won’t return this church to its home – but the greater American Judaic/Christian family can help this little pocket of believers overcome a rude misfortune.
So consider this written plea an offering plate of sorts. Search-engine “Scum of the Earth Church, Denver” and drop in your offering where the site says, “Donate.”
And when in Denver, stop by and visit a church vibrant with Gospel truth and a delightfully diverse human menagerie. And hopefully worshipping in its own building, back where it belongs.