Amidst the numerous liquor stores and neighborhood markets that line Central Avenue, storefront churches have set up shop in what used to be commercial buildings.
They’re not what you expect when you think of churches.
There are no steeples or stained glass windows or sweeping arches. More often than not, they are small, urban buildings with bars on their windows and crudely painted signs announcing their presence and purpose.
In South L.A., these storefront churches typically cater to small Latino or black congregations and adhere primarily to the Baptist or Pentecostal faiths. Masses are offered at set times during the week, usually once a day in the morning or the evening, and some offer bible study, youth services and Sunday school.
Faith, however, is not their only concern. In addition to serving as places of worship, these storefront churches, on some small scale, function to serve the community in whatever way they can.
Abraham Michael, a member of Iglesia Pentecostos Los Redimidos Por Cristo on Central Avenue, said that the newly renovated storefront church is immediately focused on drumming up a larger congregation but in the long term the church hopes to expand its services to incorporate community assistance as well.
Unlike larger more traditional churches, storefront churches are only open for a few hours a week, mostly due to a lack of resources. Cardel Andrews, Pastor of LA Shiloh Apostolic Church said that many of these storefront churches are funded by membership donations and in some cases, as with LA Shiloh, the Pastors provide much of the monetary support needed to operate. Many of the pastors and church staffers work regular nine-to-five jobs and minister to the their communities in their off-time.
Andrews immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in 1989. He works a regular nine-to-five as an accountant and has been the pastor at LA Shiloh for the past five years. He said that his desire to be a part of the building of the kingdom of God and to work as a positive influence in the community drew him to ministry work.
“We are here to serve the community in anyway we can,” said Andrews. “Whatever the community needs we try to provide.”