Mission Waco’s ‘Church Under The Bridge’ celebrates 25th anniversary
Every Sunday morning for the last 25 years, Church Under The Bridge has transformed a nondescript patch of concrete underneath I-35 across from the Baylor campus into a church where it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or where you live. Countless Baylor students have ventured over from campus to join worshippers — many of whom are poor, homeless, and/or battling addictions — and build unlikely friendships while gaining the kind of understanding you can’t learn in a class.
This weekend, Church Under The Bridge celebrates its 25th anniversary. Baylor alumni Jimmy (BA ’72, MA ’93) and Janet (BS ’80, MS ’02) Dorrell had just founded Mission Waco in 1992 when Jimmy began having weekly breakfast with a few homeless men, who asked him to host a Bible study under the bridge. That week, Jimmy brought his Bible and Janet brought her guitar, and the foundations for Church Under The Bridge were set. Fast forward a quarter of a century, and today, more than 250 visitors come together each Sunday for church — still led by Pastor (now Dr.) Dorrell.
Over the years, Jimmy and Janet have kept a close relationship with their alma mater (and her students) as they impact the city. A steady stream of Baylor students attend Church Under The Bridge and/or volunteer through one of Mission Waco’s many community outreaches. Still others gain understanding of the plight of the homeless through Mission Waco’s famous poverty simulations. The Dorrells also teach at Baylor; both serve on the faculty of the Honors College’s Philanthropy & Public Service program, and Jimmy also teaches at Truett Seminary.
Church Under The Bridge is a big part of what the Dorrells do, but it’s just one outreach of many to the city. Mission Waco is also celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Its relationship-based mission is to empower the marginalized, mobilize middle-class Christians to see how they can help, and address systemic issues that marginalize the poor. Their outreaches include a non-profit grocery for low-income residents in North Waco, the redevelopment of a once drug-ridden corner of the city with a theater and restaurant, GED classes, a homeless shelter, and more.
In a recent interview, Jimmy shared a saying that sums up much of what they do: “You say you love the poor; tell me their names.” Thousands of marginalized people are a name, a face and a friend to the Dorrells, as well as to Church Under The Bridge and Mission Waco staff and volunteers.
Sic ’em, Church Under The Bridge!