Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pulaski Heights Christian Church - You Are Welcome Here

On Christmas Day, the Rev. Holly Patton and two members of her church were out searching below bridges, near train tracks and walking around the city of Little Rock looking for people to give them backpacks filled with food, flashlights, long underwear and other items homeless people need.

"We gave them backpacks and hugs and told them we loved them," Ms. Patton said.

That's just the way Rev. Holly and her congregation roll. Holly is the pastor of Pulaski Heights Christian Church in Hillcrest. With the church's historic commitment to civil rights and her commitment to reach out to all in need, it's a perfect fit.

"It has a wonderful history of being a socially-oriented church. In 1957, the pastor walked with the Little Rock Nine. In 1972, the church defended busing to achieve racial balance. In 1980, it called its first female pastor."

Pulaski Heights Christian is a small congregation of 45 active members, but, just like its pastor, has a big heart and big plans.

"We are in the middle of revitalizing it and making it more of a community church. We're putting real spirit in it and doing more outreach. We want to reach those who are hurting and lost and those who are kind of ostracized by the church, who are lonely and don't necessarily like church."

Church members have done outreach with the homeless and with the gay and lesbian community.

"We have been active in speaking out for justice regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or political party. Our goal is to be a missional church - actively involved in speaking up and out for those who have been marginalized or hurt by the church or for those who have no voice."

Rev. Holly believes she's called to an active ministry, something she termed "radical love and hospitality for all."

Services are both traditional and with "praise music," which she said is singing to God rather than about God.

"We have a wonderfully diverse congregation right now, traditional and non-traditional couples, single mothers and fathers. My dream and goal would be for (the number of congregants) to double - so we can do more work."

She said Pulaski Heights Christian would never be a large church; it's for folks who want a more intimate environment, less of an anonymous one.

Rev. Holly is a relatively newly minted flock leader. She attended seminary at Memphis Theological Seminary for four years beginning in 2002.

Before that she was a drug rep for a pharmaceutical firm.

"I was at a dark place in my life. I was unhappy, overwhelmed trying to raise two boys alone. I was in an unhealthy relationship. I literally had my head bashed in. I realized I was on the wrong road, one leading to destruction and devastation."

Soon after the episode of physical abuse, Holly was in the office of one of her clients who invited her to church.

"I had a kind of 'road to Damascus' experience. I experienced God's grace, and it literally took me on a whole 'nother path."

At seminary, Holly discovered she was "called by God to the ministry. Everyone thought I was crazy, quitting a drug rep job and going into debt. I think God calls us to do crazy things."

And is she in a better place today? "I am in a place I never imagined, never dreamed. I still don't know what's going to happen every day. But I am in a peaceful, joyful, grateful place in my life. It's a wonderful path."

Rev. Holly is "trying to do church in a different way." You don't have to put on a facade. You don't have to be perfect to come to church. "I'd like people who are struggling to know there is a safe place to come, with their questions and with their struggles."

The Pulaski Heights Christian Church is involved in the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Little Rock, which houses, feeds, and nurtures homeless families while they work to get back on their feet.

"We participate regulary with Quapaw Methodist church cooking breakfast for the homeless, and our newest ministry is providing backpacks for the homeless.

"We also are making a deliberate effort to reach people with young children. Brian Kinder, a children’s entertainer, came to the church for a free concert which we plan to do again outside, as soon as the weather permits. We are planning on having a Earth Day party outside at the church in April. We have plans to begin the Bible and the New York Times study group, movie night, and other things so we can offer the community of Hillcrest something interesting."

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and appeared in the April 2010 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Rev. Holly Patton Profile

Getting to know the Rev. Holly Patton

Tell us about your family. I have two sons, Patton Cain, who is almost 22, and Raney Cain, who is 25. Both of my sons are incredible young men - bright, handsome, and willful like their mother, and I love them deeply and am extremely proud of both of them. Patton is working and going to school. He's studying journalism at UALR. Raney works at Windstream and studies computers and engineering at UALR. He is the father of Addisyn, my precious read-headed granddaughter. She is an absolute angel in all our lives. I have been divorced now for 20 plus years, but I'm close to marrying.

Where were you born? I was born in Little Rock and grew up in Atlanta.

What's your favorite Little Rock restaurant? Brave New Restaurant.

What's your favorite food? A Turkey sandwich from Boulevard Bread.

What's the strangest thing in your refrigerator? A tube of Chanel pink lipstick. I hate for it to melt in my purse.

If you could have a dream dinner party and invite any three people, who would you choose? I'd like to meet Steve Martin, Mary Magdalene, and President Obama.

What would be on your recommended reading list? Kathryn Stockett's The Help. South of Broad by Pat Conroy and any book of poetry by Mary Oliver.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do? I'd like to learn how to fly.

What do you do in your spare time? I rollerblade, run, ride my bike, and hike.

Is there anything you would like to change about yourself? A lot. Yes, I am too impatient and way too much of a multi-tasker.

What's your favorite movie? Marley & Me.

Do you have any pets? I have a dog who is nine. His name is Goose. He's an English springer spaniel. And a cat about seven named Catty - very original.

Is there anything you'd like to see Little Rock do differently? No, I think Little Rock is on a great path right now. I am very excited to be living in Little Rock now.

The nation? I'd like for us to be less involved in war - to spend our money on other things.

(This profile was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the April 2010 edition of Shoppe Talk.)