Steadfast in the City–Building Update
We have reached a joyous milestone here at Philadelphia Lutheran Ministries. After a year of a complicated and at times frustrating process, we have acquired our first set of buildings in Northeast Philadelphia. The buildings belonged to an existing LCMS church, Lutheran Church of St Luke, and the congregation agreed to allow us to take over and develop their property. St Luke, an extremely small congregation, has chosen to still exist as an LCMS congregation as part of the negotiation.
We did, however, inherit substantial expenses in remodeling the property that has fallen into decay, as well as updating the property for our intended use. With a loan from LCEF, a wealth of generous donors and an army of volunteers, we will turn the site into our first anchor for LCMS development in Philadelphia.
The property consists of a church, two large houses and a vacant lot.
The church will be the future home of Shepherd of the City Lutheran Church, and provide the altar and pulpit that will be the nucleus of our work in the city. We will be holding our opening service on October 28th to correspond with our yearly joint Reformation service. The church is on a major street in Northeast Philly, and is on the same corner as a busy bus stop. It is our first church plant, and we are already in stride to plant another in a very poor section of the city in the next year or two.
One of the houses will be renovated to house a national tutoring service that has asked to sign as a tenant on our property. With three large, underperforming schools in the immediate area, our property is ideal for their work. The group that will be renting our space expects about 80 students as part of their after school tutoring program. One day each week we are looking into providing a chapel service and, since the majority of the children are in families on public assistance, a meal to correspond to the time the children are picked up in the evening.
The second house will serve as a transitional house for men who are struggling with issues of poverty, and will serve as the platform for their renewed productive life. Each of the men considered are currently undergoing catechesis, and the one we have promised a room has recently been hired as my project manager. We are currently looking into the vicarage program at Concordia Theological Seminary, so if we have a vicar next year he will be housed in one of the rooms.
The vacant lot will be developed as a community garden. One of the groups we may be hosting on the lot builds greenhouses utilizing hydroponic farming. More than just providing fresh produce, this urban farming group uses the greenhouses to teach skills to at-risk veterans. The lot will then be a space for the community to gather for events like regular farmers markets that will be held starting in the summer.
So now I feel like we are getting started. I ask for your continued support and prayers as we begin the first phase of my work here in Philly.
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