by Greg Klimovitz, Associate Presbyter
When you walk through the sanctuary doors at Berean Presbyterian Church you can hear the echoes of the faithful throughout history. The testimony of the congregation, located at the intersection of Broad and Diamond, reverberates from the wooden pews and sacred art that make up their holy space.
The same holds true when you talk with their pastor, Rev. Michael Evans, and other leaders who call Berean their church home. “We believe the church is to be all about mission and helping the community,” Rev. Evans said when asked about their identity and vision as a church. “What are we doing to empower the people? What are we doing to empower the community?”
This vision and dream has nourished the budding relationship with the university next door. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Berean Church partnered with over 100 college students at Temple University for a day of fellowship and service. In a beautiful demonstration of Dr. King’s beloved community, members of both the student body and congregation worked together on various projects that benefited the church and related outreach efforts. Gregory Bonaparte, who grew up in Berean’s youth programs in the 1970’s and now serves as both a trustee in the congregation and a General Mechanic at Temple, was a primary player in the coordination of this cooperative ministry. Bonaparte commented, “It’s the work of God when people want to serve together and contribute to their community. We want to keep on praying the church becomes a safe haven where people can learn to love and serve others.”
The relationship between Berean and Temple continues to gain traction. Gregory Bonaparte and Andrea Swan, Director of Community and Neighborhood Affairs at Temple, have become regular conversation partners as they envision ongoing efforts to love and bless the neighbors both congregation and university hold in common. Swan remarked, “as a lifelong Philadelphian, I understand the importance of having strong faith based institutions in our city. Berean is an amazing house of worship and a beacon in the community.”
This past Thursday, the student body, university staff, and congregational leaders hosted a food drive at the Liacouras Center. The collected donations stocked one of the Presbytery’s Care Closets located at Berean, which serves residents of North Philly neighborhoods. In addition, when Berean hosts their Community Dining nights every last Saturday, Temple works alongside the deacons to resource and host the meal open to the public. The gathering at the end of February will even offer opportunities for local residents to receive free health screenings provided by students and faculty from Temple’s nursing program.
MLK Days of Service and Community Dining Nights are not the only attestations to the missional DNA of Berean. Since their founding in 1880, the faithful of this North Philly church have tirelessly put into practice the foundations of Presbyterianism, “The church seeks to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone” (Book of Order F.10302a). The congregation has launched initiatives and joined hands with city partners to provide housing for those looking for shelter, organized academic institutes for children and youth in neighborhoods hampered by broken education systems, provided food for those who are hungry and without sufficient financial resources, and hosted regular shoe and clothing drives in their fellowship hall to benefit anyone who sets foot within the church doors.
This commitment to inclusivity has also framed Berean’s concern for children and youth in their congregation and community. Berean Presbyterian Church has walked alongside high school graduates as they pursue college education, sought to break down gang violence that impinges on the safety and security of children, hosted spiritual renewal and discipleship retreats at Kirkwood-Brainerd Camp, and networked with other local churches in efforts to bear witness to the good news that the kingdom of God belongs to young people. Rev. Evans spoke with pride and passion, “We want youth to learn how to become productive and empowered contributors in their community.”
When asked about what makes this congregation so active in their North Philly neighborhood, Ruling Elder Donna Ruley emphasized a leadership unencumbered by budget limitations. This mentality has been coupled with intentional financial support generated from various partners who buy into their mission and sense of call. Berean has worked alongside the Presbytery of Philadelphia in launching a successful capital campaign, applied for and received grants from the Presbytery’s Covenant Fund, and tapped into other resources to sustain the breadth of ministries that flow in and out of the historic building in North Philly. As Berean Presbyterian Church has stewarded these dollars and cents, their doors have remained as open as their hearts and minds. The echoes of their prophetic history have been joined by the voices of those who lead and love in the present, flowing out of their sanctuary and into the neighborhoods surrounding the intersection of Broad and Diamond.
It’s no wonder the student body and university staff at Temple have chosen to link arms with their neighbors at Berean.
- Learn more by visiting Berean’s website
- Watch the MLK Day Video featuring Temple & Berean