Being an academic has certain perks. I got to participate in one of them today. A DMin cohort is in session this week and part of their class was a tour of Philadelphia to see what God is doing in and through the church. We left early this am on a Hagey bus (donated I hear, thank you Hagey!) and traveled to an African American church on Cheltenham ave. This church started very small in the 80s, meeting in a motel suite. Slowly, they were able to rent more and finally buy the property and several more. I’ll write more soon about this church and how it handled the congregation in some uncomfortable building situations. I was convicted at how comfort (me) focused I am. The church has a tremendous evangelism program. Next we travelled through a good chunk of North Philadelphia (West of Broad) to see Eric Mason at 16th and Diamond (Epiphany Fellowship). This pastor and his congregation are seeking to reach and redeem the hip hop culture and be a presence in N. Philadelphia. We then traveled through a lot of N. Philadelphia: Feltonville, Kensington, and through the Latino populated parts. We ate at a muslim owned business (kabobs) and heard from Rev. Luis Centano (Wyoming Baptist) about his many ministries that are an asset to the community and to the Philadelphia police force. The biggest presence in this area is the Jehovah’s Witnesses and then the Mosque. We saw lots of poverty and lots of people making a way despite being abandoned by everyone, including the police and city.
We then traveled back in time to Bridesburg. This is a very white section of the city cut off (by I95) from most of the city. Very Irish Catholic. We visited a young man who has opened a coffee shop and church (real life cafe) that meets in the shop. His story is quite an interesting one. I dropped off the tour at this point and took the train home but the rest of them continued on to Tenth Presbyterian Church to hear about their center city ministry.
The best part of this tour? Hearing Bill Krispin narrate our trip and share his 42 years experience with the entire city. This man has walked the streets and knows what is happening. His call to us is to do what business does: read the environment and learn what God is doing in the city instead of being 5 years behind. If you ever get a chance to do something like this with a person who knows your area, be sure to do it. You get to see what God is up to and not just the problems.