The material below was submitted by WRF member Rev. Jason Stryd, who may be contacted at email@example.com.
It looks like any urban neighborhood in Philadelphia. There are sprawling blocks of row homes, corner delis and salons, and intersection after intersection of four way stops. Yet a closer look reveals an incredibly diverse community with representatives from every continent. The worlds of Albanians, Arabs, Chinese, and South American immigrants collide with new transplanted African American and Hispanic communities and the old order of deeply rooted Irish Americans.
How does the gospel, the good news of the life and death of Jesus Christ, impact such a community? How do every man, woman and child have repeated opportunities to see, hear and touch the gospel? These are the main questions that continue to drive the ministry of Northeast Community Church (PCA). They are questions that have led to developing unique and creative means of outreach for a unique community.
Northeast Community Church is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual church plant that has sprouted up in this unique place. It reaches out to ethnic Albanians, Arabs and Chinese in their languages while sharing leadership, resources and ministries along with the English speaking ministry. Rather than separate congregations, it is one church, intentionally seeking to bring radically diverse communities into the unity of the gospel. At 11:00 each Sunday morning, worship services are conducted in Albanian, Chinese and English with preaching from the same passage. Children’s ministries are shared and afterwards the groups meet for coffee together.
English as a Second Language (ESL) classes have been a major beachhead into the community of immigrants. Each week over 100 adults enter the church along with their children to learn English and be touched by the practical love of Jesus Christ. They come as they are, Muslims, Buddhists and Atheists. For many, it is their very first contact with Christians, their first step inside a church, their first chance to hear and read Scripture. As these immigrants encounter and commit to following Jesus it will have a rippling effect impacting their communities back in their own countries.
Open doors in this community abound. There are staggering numbers of children and youth and work with them has only begun. SAT classes have provided great contact with high school aged youth. Summer camps have opened up opportunities with children and middle school age kids. Coming from all kinds of backgrounds the youth are a mix of their old culture and their new world, needing a place where both identities are affirmed. Communities of other immigrants from places such as Brazil, Ecuador, and Russian republics present other communities in which the gospel must take root.
For the local non-immigrant community the church presents a unique opportunity to experience and celebrate other cultures. By embracing and welcoming the immigrant they demonstrate the love of Christ but are also challenged themselves in deep ways to follow Christ beyond their own cultural assumptions. It is an opportunity for unity not in ethnicity or culture but in Christ in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, white or black, Arab or Asian.
The journey of Northeast Community Church has just begun. Much grace is needed for each step. The vision is for similar multi-ethnic and multi-lingual churches to multiply within northeast Philadelphia and outside of it. It is obvious, the harvest is plentiful and it’s a harvest made up of many peoples and languages. Please pray that God would continue to send out his laborers and equip and bless them to reap the harvest in Northeast Philadelphia and beyond.