Ministry at odds with city over Munn Park meetings

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Sanctuary Ministries promises food for the body and the soul. Every Sunday, dozens of people, many of them homeless or facing hard times, show up in Munn Park looking for both.

"Mainly, it helps those people who can use a hot meal. It is more of a family get together than anything else," Thomas Maynard, a member of the ministry, told FOX 13.

But nearby businesses and residents in downtown Lakeland say it's no picnic for them. They have complained to the city about trash being left behind, and church goers taking over the park, which makes it uncomfortable for others to use it.

So the city sent a letter to the pastor, Mark Barton, saying there were issues that had to be resolved. Barton stomped on the letter and asked others to do the same.

"It's somewhat defiant," said City spokesman Kevin Cook. "It wasn't, 'Hey,  stop doing what you're doing. It was, 'Hey, these are the rules that are outlined, please follow the rules.'"

The city says, just like any other group that meets on public property, Sanctuary Ministries needs to put down a deposit, obtain a permit, buy insurance, and possibly bring in portable restrooms.

The church has refused to do that.

"That would pretty much prevent us from [holding the service,]" said Maynard. "We have no one who helps us. This is out of our own pockets."