Birmingham Citadel Corps influences many:
The 614 rolls up its sleeves to serve the urban
By Brooke Turbyfill
Southern Spirit staff
Within the first 10
minutes of visiting the Birmingham 614 Corps in Birmingham, Ala., it's
clear that dependence on the Lord is everything. One particular Thursday
morning started with a time of intercessory prayer in the sanctuary. Two
handfuls of people sat, kneeled and paced the floor crying out to God.
It was an hour before some of the members of the 614 (known as the
Citadel) and the newly developed Battle School were about to do a neighborhood
clean-up and door-to-door evangelism in one of Birmingham's most dangerous
neighborhoods, Norwood Villas.
This type of service, with
the help of SAMS Andy Bailey and Firecrest missioner Shimei Hewitt, under the
leadership of Majors Matt and Kathy Riley, has grown the 614 to include many in
its fellowship - and many in its discipleship.
the shelter ministry, new believers are invited to join the Battle School. A
total of 23 beds in the shelter are designated for Battle School students, who
are supervised by Hewitt (the women) and corps member Leon Jackson (the men).
Battle School students sign a covenant committing to one year of incarnational
living and ministry with the corps.
The Battle School began
in August 2005 when corps officer Major Matt Riley noticed that some shelter
residents who committed their hearts to Jesus wanted long-term discipleship. A
typical day would find the Battle School students at the shelter engaged in a
devotional time from 7 to 8 a.m. Next, they're off to the Birmingham 614 to
clean it. After that, they have prayer time before eating lunch and sharing the
gospel with other shelter residents. Sometime during the day, students find
time to attend classes taught by Bailey and Majors Riley. They learn about the
character of God and study the Bible together; on alternate days, they attend
discipleship small groups. Students are also involved in all the 614
ministries, reaching out to homeless in the park, prisoners, nursing home
residents and youth in a Birmingham apartment complex.
Whether you speak to Major Matt Riley or to SAMS Andy Bailey, you
get the impression that the 614 runs a very grassroots ministry. From the
newest convert to the senior leadership, everyone is involved in hands-on
ministry, in learning together about following Jesus and in serving each other
The corps regularly conducts open-air meetings in
the park and takes the gospel to the streets by holding up yellow signs that
read, "Need prayer?" Many passersby in the business district of
Birmingham have stopped to solicit prayer.
Bailey credits the
leadership for the corps' ability to reach such a wide spectrum of people.
"God has given us great leadership here. Majors Mark and Susan Brown are
the greatest supporters of this ministry. Majors Riley are very mission-minded.
They encourage us and help us and get out in the middle of it with
Sometimes, "getting out in the middle of
it" means knocking on the doors of residents at Norwood Villas, and
telling people like Ashley about the love of Jesus. Ashley, 13, lives next door
to drug dealers and gang members. Having been led to the Lord through the
friendship of Bailey and others who visited her neighborhood frequently, she
recently came to the corps for Wednesday night Bible study and confessed her
sins at the altar.
Ashley's journey seems to depict the
method behind the message at the Birmingham 614 - intercede together, befriend
people, share the gospel, lead others to Jesus, learn together about how to
live out their faith. It sounds similar to a familiar Scripture passage,
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer. ...Many wonders and miraculous signs
were done by the apostles...And the Lord added to their number daily those who
were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Photos, top to
bottom:Top: Firecrest missioner Shimei Hewitt, SAMS Andy Bailey and other
members of the 614 pray for a woman at the altar. Middle: Students in the
Battle School, accompanied by Hewitt and Bailey, join neighborhood residents of
Norwood Villas for a photo after picking up garbage. Above, near: Battle School
students sign one-year covenants, committing to attend classes and ministries
with the 614.
South venue again for Urban
Next month, the Southern Territory will host the
3rd Urban Forum. Majors John Needham and Geoff Ryan of the Canadian
Territory feel that this year's forum features the best cadre of speakers
and presenters yet. Among the special guests are:
Robert Lupton - Lupton
will be the keynote speaker and is the founder of FCS Urban Ministries, which
began in 1976 as Family Consultation Service (FCS), a nonprofit counseling
agency for low-income individuals. Originally serving children and families
referred by Atlanta area juvenile courts, it eventually broadened its mission
to pursue lasting solutions to some of the underlying causes of poverty. FCS is
a Christian community development organization that partners with declining
inner city neighborhoods to bring about social, economic and spiritual rebirth.
Lupton is the author of many books, including Theirs is the Kingdom,
Renewing the City and So You Call Yourself a Christian: Towards
Responsible Charity. Detailed information about FCS and Lupton can be found
ane Claiborne - Claiborne is the author of Irresistible Revolution and will
conclude the forum. A founding member of "The Simple Way" community
of faith, he is a true radical for Christ as he lives what he speaks about. He
has been mentored by Tony and Bart Campolo. You can read excerpts of
Irresistible Revolution at http://www.thesimpleway.org/shane. This dynamic
individual will put a fire in your heart and renew your passion for
Ray Eldred - Ray Eldred is a Native American of Cree decent and a
member of the Swan River Cree Band, located in northern Alberta, Canada. Eldred
was ordained to the ministry in 1995 and is now devoting time to the
development of family ministry programs for struggling native families with
www.mypeopleinternational.com. Eldred is a gifted speaker and writer and
delivers seminars and workshops on issues in the life of the Native church. For
more detailed information about the Native Church please access their website.
Marty Mikles from the Salvation Army Southern Territory will host the
worship sessions at the Urban Forum. You can listen to clips of his music at
http://www.martymikles.com/music.html. Download his song, "Running in
Circles" at iTunes.
Other presenters will be Major
Bruce Powers of Canada, Kevin Metcalf, Andrew Morgan, Gabriela Elias and Jason
Pope. Kelly Pope will lead a session on "Faith and Culture" each
Register now! Join us for an inspiring time of
worship and interaction. Registration forms are located at
www.theurbanforum.com. Or contact the Office of Urban Mission at (404)
728-1300, ext. 476.
From: Dothan, Ala.
site: Birmingham, Ala.
Why SAMS? He felt God
calling him into a SAMS position because of his strong evangelistic gifting, so
he left Fort Smith, Ark., and accepted Major Matt Riley's invitation to be
a SAMS at the Birmingham 614 Corps.
What he does:
Initiates many evangelism opportunities for the 614 corps and helps with the
Battle School that the 614 operates.
Upon moving to Birmingham, Bailey said that the Lord told him an apartment at
Norwood Villas (one of the worst sections of town) would be available to the
corps for an evangelistic ministry. So Bailey called the landlord, and the
landlord offered the 614 a lease for $0 for the duration of time described as
"until Jesus returns."
On partnership: Bailey
explained the complimentary roles of SAMS and Firecrest missioners by saying,
"When we [the SAMS] go and plant something, they [the Firecrest
missioners] dig their heels in. Once it's established, Shimei (Firecrest
missioner to Birmingham) comes in and builds relationships. She knows their