Editorial: Proclaiming the gospel on Main Street

Photo for illustrative purposes

Column By Mike Bibb

“Give me that old-time religion, Give me that old-time religion, It will take us all to Heaven, Lord it’s good enough for me.”

Old Time Religion The Jubilee Singers and Charles Davis Tillman, 1873

In a sort of antiquated way – enhanced with a modern microphone and speaker box – Jorge Melendez (not real name) is doing his part to proclaim the gospel.

You might say he is exercising his 1st Amendment right of free speech to promote another constitutional guarantee; to worship in accordance with his convictions. 

Reminiscent of an old-timey street-corner preacher, Melendez passionately professes his religious views to motorists and inquisitive sidewalk onlookers along Main Street in Safford, Arizona.  I’ve randomly noticed him a time or two previously but didn’t interrupt.  Instead, choosing to observe his pastoral skills from a few yards away. 

The guy had a job to do and I respected that.  Personal opinions of Christ’s teachings and his mission to share beliefs and philosophies with anyone who’d spare a moment to listen represented a unique opportunity for folks to briefly participate in a past American tradition from the comfort of a modern car.  A sort of mobile social distancing religious experience, compatible with government’s everchanging COVID “rules of the day.” 

The fact most people only briefly noticed Melendez’s oratorical abilities didn’t seem to frustrate his efforts or diminish his intensity.  He preached continually, hardly pausing in confessing his devotion and acceptance of a divine deity whose infinite knowledge, wisdom, and love is beyond many people’s ability to comprehend.

In contrast to an indoor podium, enclosed within a climatically controlled sanctuary, Melendez’s open-air altar is surrounded by buildings, power poles, roosting birds, and the sound of rumbling traffic.  No pews, pianos, stained glass windows, framed pictures, or statues adorn his street-side imaginary chapel.

A microphone and Bible are his only visual aids: Sermons birthed unscripted from the heart, freely presented in an environment provided by whatever weather nature may conjure at the time. 

If by chance, the sidewalk preacher sees or hears of this article, he’s welcomed to contact the Gila Herald to discuss his religious calling.  I’m sure others in the community would enjoy learning more about his personal life experiences and why he’s chosen his particular forum to advance the word of God.

Note: The stock picture is not Mr. Melendez.  I was unable to locate and photograph him in time for this article.