Kairos Is Now: Present and Future Witness in West Philly
Greg: We talk about this new fire that has been stirred up and breathed upon in the ministry of these collaborative churches in West Philly. What is happening now and where are we potentially headed?
Eustacia: [We began] a year of visioning and spiritual practice. I think it is really important for pastoral leaders and congregations, especially when you are in seasons of transition, you have to cease just doing a bunch of programs…and to learn how to hear from God. You have to learn how to facilitate and hold space to hear together. So our session meetings, which we call tri-session right now…we spend time together asking what is it that God is calling us to do. We build the agenda around the worship format. We gather. We study. We hear God’s word. We respond with our reports. And then we go out…
We also had an all church retreat in November. Where right now we are averaging about 60 in worship, we had about 40 at that all church retreat…We left with spiritual formation, leadership multiplication, [and] a target mission field of youth and families. We left with a pathway for what we believe how spiritual formation can take place through music and art, through the green economy. Because we recognize we are in West Philadelphia, where we have economic issues, where poverty is real, [and] where violence is an issue. We knew and know the needs of the community to which we have been called to serve. So we took those bits and parts and we developed a vivid description of the vision. We put pen to paper that scripture. We talked about write the vision and make it plain…We see our church as a river moving people in the way of Christ and doing this through joyful worship, collaborative learning spaces where folks can love one another and grow together in Christ…
We are located in West Philadelphia, what activist Karen Washington calls “food apartheid.” We are in an area where we have issues around access to nutrient-rich food. It is food apartheid because of the reality that these are systems that are designed this way. We want to call it out. Part of our vision is developing a commercial corridor, where you have social impact ministry happening. Whether it be a grocery store or something that would be of service to the economics of the community…I have been in the community talking to different people and looking at different kind of models. Really you need business and nonprofit models, as well as the church model, a hybrid coming together to figure out how they create this…And at the end of the day, this whole journey is about loving God, loving people, and serving the world. Loving God through our joyful worship.
Ruth: It is this Ezekiel moment. Can these bones live and breathe? The breath come from the four winds, from the four corners of the world…[and] God calls together a community to then incarnate new possibilities. So, that’s all I have to say. I am just so grateful that we find ourselves here.
Kevin: The nexus of where the world knows about the love of God and the love of neighbor, is the love of self. A big piece of that, particularly for a gritty city like Philadelphia, with the economic decay, addiction, [and] poor education…[is to look at] those pivot places where we offer something up to create the space for God to do the new thing. So stay encouraged and ask [God] that question, of what stone to let go of so that you have the open hand for God to give you something else to work with [in ministry].
Greg: That is the resurrection story. We are a resurrection people. Thanks be to God for the way we can all join hands and celebrate that story and be resurrection people together.
Eustacia: Thank you.
Kevin: Thank you.
Ruth: Thank you.
We give thanks for the faithful and creative work of the Administrative Commission, which continues to walk alongside leaders of the West Philadelphia Presbyterian Partnership:
Rev. Dr. Janel Dixon (Cedar Park) – Moderator
Elder Jim Ballengee (Arch Street)
Elder George Henisee (Bryn Mawr)
Rev. Sarah Searight (Swarthmore)
Rev. Todd Stavrakos (Gladwyne)
Rev. Jimmy Lee Stratton (HR)
Elder Diana Taylor (Germantown Community)