From the Art Table to the Communion Table: A Story from Beacon

“God wants us to have a home.”-Faith Statement written by Mary, age 9

Beacon4As pastors who identify as pastors in all circumstances, both around the art table and leading worship, the Co-Directors of Beacon have found people’s faith stories tend to fall into the laps of the listening.

One such story is Mary. Mary is now 9 years old, but started coming to Beacon when she was 6. Even though she has not been raised in the church, she has come to know the teachers of the program as pastors, and she has found Beacon to be a safe space for her and other children of the neighborhood.Beacon3

One day Mary came into the art program early, looking sad. She began to tell Rev. Rohrer a story of her cousin, who was confined to a wheel chair from cerebral palsy. Mary talked about how people made fun of him, she was going to visit him soon, and she didn’t know what to say to help.

As the story began to wind down, Rev. Rohrer realized as a pastor, she should say something in response; a word of comfort or clarity. But instead of asking her opinion, Mary finished by saying, “So will you pray for me? And for him? That people would stop being mean and that I would know what to say?”

Beacon2“I was struck by her grasp of what role a pastor should play, and by the fact she knew before I did the best thing to do was pray,” Rev. Rohrer said.

Soon after, Mary began attending worship by herself, participating in a faith-basics class, and was baptized on Easter. “In the whole scheme, our conversation months ago seems like a simple thing. But then I think of all that had to happen and how many people it took to create that space for Mary. I think of all the people who give quietly, drop off paper towels, or donate general operating funds online. I think of all those who pray for Beacon. When I remember the generosity of our partners, I get a sense of her importance, of all our importance in the kingdom of God. And I remember how grateful I am that it is among these people I find my home as well.”Beacon1

Beacon is a New Church Development of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, PCUSA, built on the idea the arts could be used to invite people into relationship in a specifically transformative way. This idea takes shape through secular children’s programs, open community events, and worship services. Located in Kensington, Beacon is committed to serving as a place of Gospel hope in an area of the city that has experienced economic and social marginalization. Beacon’s journey is being supported by the partnering congregations of this presbytery, including Arch Street, Overbrook, Bridesburg, Bryn Mawr, Grace Jenkintown, Wayne, Forest Grove, and Calvary Wyncote, as well as the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PCUSA, the Synod of the Trinity and the Presbytery of Philadelphia’s Covenant Fund.

This Saturday, the Presbytery will be celebrating several major milestones with Beacon, including the ordination of Beacon Co-Director Rebecca Blake as a teaching elder. The celebration, “Beacon Empowered: A Celebration of Community Creativity”, will include worship, the unveiling of the Lights on Cumberland Street Project, and a lawn party with opportunities to make art and share stories. The ordination service begins at 11am, and Beacon is located at 2364 E Cumberland Street.beacon empowered web 2