New Missionary Pastor for Philadelphia
I write to you today not a full-fledged newsletter article with many breakthroughs or important events to tell but a report of the settling-in process with some if the interactions and first thoughts of our time here in the city.
Upon arriving on June 12, we set into the rigors of unpacking and settling ourselves into the parsonage that PLM has graciously provided. (On the PLM website, pictures show the parsonage is the white house, third to the right.) We are pleased to be so close to the parish, and we have already seen the benefits of being a part of the neighborhood we will be serving. We have made friends with many of the neighbors as well as with some of the owners and workers at nearby businesses.
I have found here in the city something that I have not seen since my days growing up in South Dakota, where complete strangers would stop along gravel roads to talk to each other out of their driver’s side windows. The people here are community-minded and have a strong pride for the place that they live. They are willing to listen and are pleased to talk. Many of them have spent time explaining to me the history of the neighborhood, along with some of the things that they have seen change over the years, some not for the better. However, all of them seem to be excited to have a pastor living on premises and in the neighborhood with a family and an organization (PLM) and gracious donors who truly care about having a strong sacramental/ Gospel presence here.
The trust inherent in these people for the office of the ministry is amazing, and it is my hope that our gracious Lord will continue to keep me faithful in the office to which He has called me.
I should also mention the diversity of the neighborhood. This section of Philadelphia is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in all of the Northeast, if not the United States. Our neighbors are Puerto Rican, many of the parishioners at Shepherd are African-American, there is a large Asian population located three blocks to the east and the influx of Eastern Europeans has been increasing over the years.
Yet, while the diversity is like nothing I have ever met with in my life, I am encouraged to know that there are not diverse ways to preach and teach the gospel to the children of God. While there are many different experiences, cultural ideas and histories, the receptivity to the Gospel, to the simple preaching and teaching of a hope that transcends despair, a liberty that transcends the bondage to sin, and the life eternal that conquers death is universal. I have found, to this point, that people I have spoken with are willing to listen and eager to learn.
I look forward to regular correspondence with you the faithful, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue our work together in the city. Please let your friends and neighbors know what we are doing. Please let them know that there is a great need and please continue to remember that, as our gracious Lord wills it, He will be the One that continues to share His grace, mercy and love to the people here and throughout the world.
To Christ alone be the Glory!
Rev Adam DeGroot