Lugging backpacks and Hefty bags on Sunday at sunrise, they trickle in to the expanse of dirt and gravel under Interstate 35. Littering this city block between 4th and 5th streets in Waco, Texas are taillight shards, pigeon feathers, and at least one dead bat. The men sit mostly in solitude at the base of support columns, waiting for something to happen.

More than a dozen are there when, just after 9, a van with men from two drug rehab centers eases over the curb and parks. Two pickup trucks follow with trailers of folding chairs and sound equipment. One flatbed truck doubles as a stage. Recovering addicts line up chairs beneath the northbound lanes.

A hoodless, bumperless Chevy pickup arrives. Made from '73 to '85 parts, its burnt-orange bed is filled with balding tires, plastic drums, aluminum cans, wire-tangled innards of mechanical devices, and a push broom. Former drug addict and ex-con Kenneth Kucker gets out, slams its blue door, and hands a visitor a peppermint, his smile peeking through a lopped-off ZZ Top beard. He smells of the axle grease that permeates his jeans, but he's dressed for worship in his best T-shirt that reads CHURCH UNDER THE BRIDGE.

"It's a humble bridge," Kucker says. "Today it's going to be sanctified."

For Waco's homeless and hard-living people, there may be no safer place than this bridge on Sunday morning—as safe from street crime as from the glares of worshipers in other churches.

The interdenominational Church Under the Bridge (CUB) began in 1992 when Baylor professor Jimmy Dorrell, 54, began a Bible study for homeless men who slept under this overpass. The group grew to include more homeless, poor, drug addicts, prostitutes, and bikers. They were later joined by others who had no church experience ...

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