Connecting Face-to-Face

Over the past several weeks I have heard stories of the saints who have come before us in this place who gave generously to fund the mission of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. I have heard stories of our relationships with mission partners from all over the world. I have heard stories of faithful members of this congregation who have inspired the entire church to take on projects and adopt new perspectives on issues and needs in West Philadelphia shaping BMPC’s outreach priorities.

As much as these stories help us all to understand our past, present and future as a congregation in mission, it is even better when we venture together outside of the building and outside of Bryn Mawr to meet and fellowship with our partners around Philadelphia.

In just the past few weeks I have had the great opportunity to not just hear the stories of how BMPC is connecting through outreach in Philadelphia, but to go myself to experience the work of two of our mission partners.

WKM children sharing their VBS experiences

Since 2007 BMPC has supported the work of The West Kensington Ministry on Norris Square which has been led since its inception by former BMPC Lily Resident Rev. Adan Mairena. WKM serves the West Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia reaching out to children, youth, families and adults. West Kensington has been classified as the fourth hungriest congressional district in the United States. Through their own outreach, public witness, worship, Vacation Bible School and student ministries, they support and nurture this struggling community.

A couple of Sundays ago, Outreach Council member, Andrew McKendrick and I joined the good people of West Kensington Ministry for their afternoon worship service. This particular Sunday was a celebration of their past week of Vacation Bible School. In lieu of a sermon, children shared the lessons and music they learned over the past week at VBS. It was inspiring to hear their enthusiasm for the church, the stories they retold to us, and their connection to this community of faith. At the end of the service the adults gathered around the children in prayer articulating so many of their hopes and dreams for the children of this neighborhood: safety, love, nourishment, growth, leadership, family. It was a remarkable afternoon.

Just this past week, I had the opportunity to visit with The Revs. Casey Thompson, Aisha Brooks –Lytle, and Sudie Neisen Thompson from Wayne Presbyterian Church at their Southwest Philadelphia project, The Common Place. A 2014/2015 recipient of a grant from the BMPC Bay Fund for Urban Ministry, The Common Place seeks to be a center of outreach and community life for children and families in this urban neighborhood. The Common Place is the home of New Spirit Community Presbyterian Church and office space for Cornerstone Christian Academy, Turning Points for Children and the CityLights Network. In addition to supporting these community partners, through their commitment to this neighborhood, The Common Place also offers its own programs of arts education and enrichment including fine arts classes, dance, photography, and more general academic tutoring support.

It was so encouraging to connect with these colleagues and partners in the space in which they minister and to hear their dreams and visions for even more opportunities to serve children in Southwest Philadelphia. I am so grateful to Outreach Council/Hunger Taskforce member John Vaughn for going on this visit with me to help me better understand how our fellow Presbyterian brothers and sisters are engaging in the city.

Do you have a passion for the Outreach Ministries of BMPC? How are you serving/volunteering in the community in ways that give you encouragement? Do you have a passion for mission and want to tell me more about it? Come tell me your story. Take me to visit the places where YOU serve. Help us all be better at connecting, serving and living in our community and city together.