“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: . . . I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door; which no one is able to shut.” Revelation 3:7, 8
Many churches lament the absence of young adults. Yet the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and the East Falls Presbyterian Church, along with support from the Presbytery’s Covenant Fund, are partnering to engage young people where they are — on campus at Drexel University.
Part of the University’s Office for Spiritual and Religious Life, Open Door Christian Community is an ecumenical campus ministry, led by Rev. Sarah Colwill (Validated Ministry), along with Rev. Mindy Huffstetler (First, Phila),
who serves as the President of the board. Situated at the center of campus, the ministry is able to reach the mission field of 10,000 students, encouraging them to grow (and sometimes just begin) their discipleship of Jesus Christ.
As recipients of the Covenant Fund, the ministry has been able to expand its connections to local churches and nurture that important relationship between traditional and non-traditional ministries. Students from Open Door joined with the mission committee of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia to work together on a Habitat for Humanity project in the city. First Church’s congregation members and staff occasionally worship with Open Door during their weekly Tuesday night worship services. First Church’s congregation members also provide meals for the students and engage in fellowship.
East Falls Presbyterian Church is also supportive of Open Door, with their pastor Rev. Katherine Rick-Miller leading worship several times, and congregants welcoming students into their church. Forming such relationships has enabled these churches to reach beyond their walls in ministry, as well as strengthen the students’ connection with traditional church communities. Members of both First Church and East Falls have expressed how meaningful these experiences are, not just as an outreach from their church, but as a way to engage in ministry with young adults where the Spirit is at work.
The Covenant Fund grant has also enabled these students to attend a winter retreat at Kirkwood Camp, where they discussed relationships and intimacy. During a time when young adults are on their own, often for the first time, Open Door offers a voice of love and self-respect among the many cultural voices clamoring for their attention. This retreat as well as other fellowship events, encourages these young adults to deepen their relationship with God through Jesus Christ, live into the calling God has placed upon their hearts, and work for the love and reconciliation of the world.
Open Door’s unique situation on Drexel’s campus allows the church to be present in their lives, offering the love of God, the mercy of Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to transform their lives as they seek out the path for their future.