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St. Paul’s Searches for God, Believers in Shockoe Bottom

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Seminarian Andrew Terry is leading a church's efforts to reach young people in Shockoe Bottom.
  • Seminarian Andrew Terry is leading a church's efforts to reach young people in Shockoe Bottom.

Say you’re out at Millie’s one Sunday morning, trying feebly to smother your hangover with a big ol’ devil’s mess.

You raise your heavy head and at the next table, you see a smiling, bright-eyed group from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Don’t worry. They’re not there to lecture you. “Christians have a bad rap for always wanting to talk at people,” says Andrew Terry, St. Paul’s seminarian in residence.

What the St. Paul’s group is doing is “hanging out with intention,” looking for God’s presence in the residents and business owners of Shockoe Bottom.

Terry is organizing a series of discussions on summer Sunday mornings in the Bottom, an unexpected frontier for the historic church near Capitol Square. He hopes to reach the 20- and 30-something young professionals who’ve flooded into Tobacco Row in recent years — not to proselytize, he says, but to be a welcoming presence: “We’re about just listening.”

The church, which long has been a force in downtown Richmond, is also trying to support local businesses and learn more about the Bottom, he says. That’s what the new series, called Views from the Bottom, is about.

On June 19, around 11:30, writers Bekah Holbrook and Shola Walker will join the group at Café Gutenberg to talk about their experiences living in the Bottom and Church Hill. On June 26, Style Weekly’s bar columnist Jack Lauterback will speak at Lulu’s. A third gathering is planned July 10 at Millie’s.

A blog also will be maintained to share updates from group discussions (more information is available at stpauls-episcopal.org).

You can join them — even if you are hungover. “I don’t think that our presence would guilt them,” Terry says. “I hope.”

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