Pastor Gregory P. Fryer of New York City's Immanuel Lutheran Church said the idea just came to him one day.
"I thought about it for years," the 65-year-old told WNYW-TV, "but I'm getting older and I thought, 'I better do it if I'm gonna do it.'"
So a desk and chair hit the corner of East 88th and Lexington outside the church, along with a couple of yellow signs: "Spiritual Help 5¢" and "The Pastor Is In."
Rev. Gregory Fryer hopefully not channeling his inner Lucy van Pelt outside Immanuel Lutheran Church on 88th and Le… https://t.co/4dYL2uU8gS— Mac King (@Mac King)1479852401.0
But taking a page from the beloved "Peanuts" comic — in which Lucy sets up a booth as a psychiatrist — is no laughing matter to the pastor.
"I do this for fun, but also for real," Fryer told the Christian Post.
In fact, he told the outlet that eyes might widen at how many NYC pedestrians — on their way to take on the world in all manner of business ventures — stop at his booth and talk to Fryer about what's on their hearts. So much so that he told the Post he makes sure to keep a box of tissues handy.
"When they sit down there on that stool, it's as though all the world fades away," Fryer told the Post.
He said people chat with him about a wide variety of topics, "from 'I think I'm getting a cold, could you pray for me?' to 'I have learned I may have only six months to live.' ... I try to encourage them via Jesus and the faith of the Church."
Election Day was particularly interesting.
"It was very interesting to me that people did stop by to talk about the election, but they did not ask for prayer for any particular candidate," Fryer told the Post. "Instead they asked for prayer for our land, for unity of our people, for peace in our hearts."
He said one of the most moving encounters came when a woman requested, "Would you pray for me that I not hate people who vote on the other side?"
"I thought that was a wise prayer," Fryer told the Post.
He added to the outlet that he hopes others will try this outreach approach.
"Not only do I hope that more churches will do this, but also that each of us, as individuals, will do it, too," Fryer told the Post. "This is a form of love we can provide for our neighbors: that we will make ourselves available to listen as carefully as we can and then to answer in a godly and encouraging way."
Oh, and he doesn't actually charge 5 cents for his services, but Fryer said some people leave donations for the church: "The booth gives me some satisfaction in believing that our God looks on at it and smiles."