New City Fellowship Beechwood is the second PCA church plant in Rochester NY, and the first urban PCA church planted outside of Manhattan in New York State. Rochester is a small city located on the shore of Lake Ontario; you can see Toronto across the lake on clear days sometimes. Home to formerly large companies, Kodak and Xerox, Rochester has been in decline since the 1980s as those two main employers downsized from combined workforces of over 100,000 to now less than 10,000. Rochester has a similar story when compared to other rust belt cities: neighborhoods that grew up around industry, and when the industry left, so did the middle class. Those left behind were often the children of laborers who worked hard in these large industries for years, but whose children would be looking for jobs that were slowly disappearing. With an “extreme poverty” rate that tops the list of all similar sized cities, a high school graduation rate under 50%, and a crime and murder rate that landed it in the WSJ’s “Top 25 Murder Capitals” list, Rochester needs the right kind of churches more than ever.
New City Fellowship Beechwood is located on the tip of “The Crescent,” a term used to designate a group of neighborhoods that fall into the above categories. Beechwood has about 9,000 residents, 70% of who live under the national poverty level. NCFB was planted in parallel to 441 Ministries, a Christian community development ministry that focuses on youth, children, and families, offering mentoring, food, nutrition, and gardening programs, job training and development, and Christian discipleship. About 1/3 of the congregation is made up of those who relocated or are relocating to be part of the work (“Beechwood by choice”), another 1/3 is comprised of folks that grew up in the neighborhood or neighborhoods like it (“Beechwood by birth”), and another third is comprised of commuters. We are a congregation of about 60 that just celebrated its second anniversary.
Other than our Sunday worship, which takes place in the gym of a local community center with whom we partner in outreach initiatives, our main methods of outreach either utilize 441 Ministries and its programs, or is centered around barbecues and neighborhood meals and celebrations. When we put on a barbecue, we typically see about 100 guests. We hold community meals on all major holidays, with a strong conviction that the most vulnerable and lonely people in our neighborhood are most vulnerable and lonely on holidays!
Through 441 Ministries, we help to run a weekly “Kids Club” program on Saturdays, and we serve lunch daily during the summer in the context of a VBS model. Both of those programs are usually maxed out at 25 children. We also oversee 441’s teen mentoring program, and a few of the teens that work at our job training experience, the New City Café, located next door to 441 Ministries.
Just so you can appreciate the impact a joint ministry like this can have in a neighborhood, I would like to share Dorothy’s story. Dorothy moved to Rochester from Queens last year. She is a Jamaican immigrant and ended up in Rochester because her husband lost his job and they needed to downsize and find somewhere with a lower cost of living. The only job her husband could find was driving for a medical company in NYC, so he cannot be home in Rochester with his family during the week. This is somewhat common. But Dorothy had just had a baby and with two little girls, a teenage son, and trying to adjust to life in Beechwood, she was really struggling. But she saw a lot of activity at New City Café and so one day strolled in. There she learned about our kids’ programs and our teen mentoring that we run through 441 Ministries. Her young daughters became regulars at kids club and joined our little league team! In a few weeks we will receive her into membership at our church and baptize her daughters and her newborn baby. Her teenage son was slow to warm up to our community, but last week he attended the teen program for the first time and was paired up with a man in our church who is going to tutor him in writing computer code, which is his passion. Now we are just trying to catch up with dad! Please pray!
- Please keep us in prayer through this summer using these themes:
- Peace for our neighborhood: The spring has been particularly violent and has resulted in some discouragement for us
- For Mary Cooper, our teen mentoring coordinator, who is piloting a new program, and expecting her first child this summer; and for Erica Schiller, who is running our daily kids program. That all of these families would have an opportunity to respond to the gospel in the context of having some of their physical needs met.
- For Alex Wright, our summer intern from RTS Jackson, who will be getting a taste of everything we do, and preaching a short summer series.
- For fruitful summer outreaches, particularly 3 backyard barbecues
- For an answer to some problems we’re having with our worship space; we will at least need something temporary during some summer/fall renovations; but hope for something more permanent.
- For continued funding and more laborers to help us minister here in Beechwood.
Church Planter John Houmes at New City Fellowship in Hollywood, FL ( www.NewCityHH.com) sends this report of a great opportunity they’ve had for a permanent facility and the impact they’re having on the community.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ words in Mark 2 when he said,
“It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
In late January, we signed a lease on a church building in our target area and began raising money to renovate it. By March, we had raised over $20,000 and the church building looked incredibly.
I thought we had renovated a church building. It turns out we were opening an E.R.
In just the past three weeks in our church, we’ve seen one person come to Christ and a single mother with two young kids get evicted from her home. I have walked with two church goers considering suicide and a homeless couple with no signs of overcoming homelessness. We also had an increase in attendance by people with developmental disorders. We are a small church plant. The prevalence of high-need situations in our church makes it feel like triage. But Jesus came for the sick!
“D” connected with me via facebook about our women’s Christmas party. Without knowing me or anyone else in our church, she and her elementary aged daughter showed up to the party and then kept showing up at more church gatherings. Her brother had recently been killed in gang violence, and she was hungry to know God. On our first Sunday in the new building, I preached a sermon from Psalm 2 on Encountering Jesus the King. I struggled with whether I should preach such a pointed text (Jesus is King. You are not. Surrender to him and find true joy) on our first Sunday in the new building, but ultimately decided it wasn’t my church, but King Jesus’ church. And who was I to get in the way of the King?
After the service, D approached me and said, “I’m ready to do the surrender thing.”
“What do you mean?”, I asked.
“I want to surrender to King Jesus.”
I don’t know why, but I was a little stunned. We sat down and talked, and she was genuinely repenting and trusting in Christ. We prayed right there and D surrendered her life to Jesus. Her other brother gets out of prison soon, and D is already telling him he has to come to church and hear about Jesus.
Some prayer requests:
-New Believers – pray that God protects the two new Christians and grows them as we disciple them towards their baptism. Pray that others may come to know Christ.
-Funds – we still have a long way to go before being self-sustaining. Our internal tithes continue to grow, but we will need more external funding by the end of the year.
-Laborers – we need mature Christians to come and invest in our church plant. People need people willing to serve, participate in the community and care for others.
-Family – we are taking a break from ministry in May and June. Please pray that we are able to rest and recharge.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Church Planter Kyle Hackman in Toronto sends this update on a new work in Toronto, just begun last fall, Christ Church Toronto:
Though Christ Church Toronto officially “launched” on October 1, 2017, the PCA has been at work trying to reach the greater Toronto area for decades. After serving as Grace Toronto Church’s associate pastor for the past 7 years, Kyle Hackmann left with a core group of 40 adults and 34 kids to plant a church in the east end of the city.
The east end of Toronto consists of a quarter of a million people. For the past 10 years, over 100,000 homes have sold. The east end had undergone a radical change in demographics. For a while it was the last refuge of families trying to raise children within the city of Toronto. At the time of our planting, every church in the neighbourhood was planted prior to World War II. The need was obvious.
But how do you reach urban families with their expensive coffees, high end strollers and never ending renovation projects? And how do you then teach families to disciple their kids while living in an urban environment? These were the two biggest challenges of Christ Church Toronto.
Though the church is not even a year old, there has been some great pictures of success. So far, we are averaging one new family visiting every week! People are inviting friends and much to our surprise, they are visiting! We have grown from 40 adults at launch to over 80 adults some Sundays! We have had as high as 54 kids! There are three adults exploring baptism as we speak.
Though there are still many challenges ahead, watching families come together with a vision to reach their neighbours has been beautiful. Disciples are made organically when families come together and prayerful work to see the gospel flourish in their neighbourhoods. It has been a joy to see the ways God’s Spirit is at work in our corner of the city long before we set out to plant!
Please click here to continue reading for an update directly following our fall launch…
Church Planting Apprentice Chris Knaebel, who is apprenticing at Covenant Life Church in Sarasota FL in preparation to plant a church is already making a difference in the lives of neighbors in the community…“We first met Angelo, a hard-working 18 year old Italian from South Philly, on one of our many walks along our shared path from the parking lot. He moved to Sarasota six months ago with his parents and younger brother. Over the last six months, we’ve each listened to pieces of each other’s story in passing. But the week before Easter our neighborly connection would cross a