MANATEE — Most every weekend, God’s War Wagon can be seen on the streets of Bradenton as members of Pathways Christian Fellowship practice their unusual community outreach.
“Remember the movie with Lee Marvin having a wagon with a gatling gun in the back?” asks The Rev. Willie Holley of Pathways Christian Fellowship, which rents space in the Police Athletic League fitness center at 202 13th Ave. E., Palmetto. “We have an old bread truck outfitted with tables and coolers and generators and we go in and out of low-income areas and offer ministry on site.”
God’s War Wagon could be an apt symbol of this church, which was started on April 11 by Holley, who had three combat tours in Southeast Asia from 1968 to 1969 and from 1971 to 1973.
“I think the military background was God’s preparation to allow me to work in unusual circumstances,” said Holley, who was a weapons and munitions specialist with the 432nd Special Operations Group, which focused on counterinsurgency and special operations in Vietnam.
God’s War Wagon is manned with a half dozen church members on its missions.
“We have had some success bringing people to faith,” Holley said. “There is difficulty in retention. We can get people to come to one worship service and they fade away. But we have only been doing this since April.”
Faith grows from a seed and has to be nurtured, Holley said.
“These individuals we meet in God’s War Wagon most often have never allowed themselves the time to think of what role faith plays in success in life,” Holley said. “They can hear the message of faith, but they can’t apply it in their lives.”
What makes Rev. Holley special is that he has created an environment that is pleasant and his message is easy to grasp, said church member Stephanie Moore.
The church, which usually has 40 to 60 attending, meets 10 a.m. Sundays at the Police Athletic League building and 7 p.m. every Thursday at the Anna E. Gayle Resource Center, 2112 Third Ave. E., Palmetto, for adult Bible classes.
Holley previously served as assistant pastor at Mt. Raymond Full Gospel Church and started Pathways Bible Center in Sarasota.
A Pathways Sunday service begins with a roughly half hour praise session with a mix of contemporary and traditional music inspired by Edwina Stanley’s keyboard playing.
“We don’t have a chorus,” said Holley. “We all sing and let the Spirit flow.”
Moore said that Holley inspires a friendliness that permeates all aspects of the church.
“Rev. Holley is very nice and easy to get to know,” Moore said. “He is very likeable. He uses modern day stories to illustrate Bible teachings. My favorite part of the service is his message. But our singing is wonderful. You can really feel the spirit move.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.
If you go
Pathways Christian Fellowship Services: 10 a.m. Sunday worship, Police Athletic League fitness center, 202 13th Ave. E., Palmetto; 7 p.m. Thursday adult Bible classes, Anna E. Gayle Resource Center, 2112 Third Ave. E., Palmetto Information: 374-0242