Sale of Sanctuary Leads to House Church of Hope: Trinity Presbyterian Church in Kensington


Covenant Connections by Rev. Greg Klimovitz

Five years ago, Trinity Presbyterian’s willingness to be loosed from their historical building enabled the congregation to birth a sustained witness and oversee six transitional residences, host local recovery programs, convene conversations on peacemaking, and meet throughout the week for Bible study, prayer groups, and Sunday morning worship.

“Whacovcon_trinkt can we do to make this a safer and better community to live?” asked Commissioned Ruling Elder Roland Reeves of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Kensington. “We can’t just sit back.”

Located at the intersection of Cambria Street and Frankfurt Avenue, a corner known for increased drug activity and related violence, Trinity responded by reinventing themselves as both residential and worship community for those battling various forms of addiction. Previously gathered in their historical sanctuary a block away, Trinity sold their building, purchased a row home known to locals as the “drug house” and “shooting gallery,” and invested in critical repairs for their newly developed house church.

While the worshipping congregation of Trinity hovers around 15, their incarnation of the kingdom of God extends farther than traditional membership rolls. However, the community did not always welcome their ministry, especially as they sought to transform their block and new worship space from hostility to hope. “I’ll never forget the night I heard a knock on the door. Everybody in this community was standing at the door,” recalled Elder Reeves, who lived in the house for six months while in recovery five years ago. “They looked me in the face and said, ‘We don’t want you here. You can take your recovery programs and Jesus Christ talk; we don’t want you here. Two years later, over half those people are now involved [in our programs].”

Since that night, Elder Roland Reeves and the leadership of Trinity have continued to foster healthy relationships with their local neighbors and become a trusted sanctuary of solidarity. Their openness and hospitality has been the one constant of this Kensington church, regardless of location. “When we were across the street we didn’t turn anybody away,” remarked Clerk of Session, Cheryl Iredale. “We still have a love and affection for this community. We still want to grow and we still want to embrace anybody. We even keep our doors open during the worship service so people can see and come by and join us so we can reflect into their lives.”

Their zealous faith mirrored in a commitment to their neighborhood is why the Presbytery of Philadelphia and the Commission on Ministry have intentionally celebrated this small house church and, in July 2016, commissioned Elder Roland Reeves to shepherd this ministry. The enthusiasm by which he was endorsed assured Trinity Presbyterian that as they kept their doors open to local neighbors, their Presbytery would walk alongside them. “We honor the work of Trinity-Kensington and their response to a dramatically changed neighborhood,” remarked Elder Michael Smith, Co-Moderator of the Commission on Ministry. “Rather than joining the exodus, Roland and the congregation adapted their witness to the drastic changes and now provide a unique outpost where the church ministers alongside their neighbors in the city.”

In an era when many churches have become saddled by aging buildings and Christian witness reduced to maintenance of old structures, the collective ministry of Trinity Presbyterian reminds us of what can happen when a congregation leverages property as asset for new possibilities. As they have trusted the Spirit, Trinity has evolved into a house church of hope and declared to their neighbors there is always room for them among God’s people. We give thanks for the work and witness of Trinity and how they never cease to respond to Christ’s call right where they are and with whatever resources the Spirit has afforded them.