Inner-City Ministry

Today I started my service to an inner-city congregation as part-time Interim Pastor. This 116 year-old congregation started out as a mission of historic Trinity (Soulard) in the (then) suburbs of St. Louis. The first structure, a combination school and chapel was only blocks away from the church’s current location. Today, the traditional limestone church-building, built in 1902, sits on the border between the Fox Park and McKinley Heights neighborhoods and in the middle of some of the biggest transition I have seen locally. The second school building opened in 1925 and ceased operation as a school in 1974. In 1997 the congregation took up the same conversation that was happening in many of the congregations in the city core, “Do we stay?” Down from a membership of 1,551 in 1950, there are considerably less than 100 members today. Notes from the meetings held in the school building witness that even as they met gunshots rang out in the alley behind the their meeting room window. And the answer was, “We are staying!”

The challenges before this congregation are myriad. They have come full circle to their roots, and find themselves truly a mission congregation once again. Six square blocks in the immediate area of the church received a half-sheet flyer inviting them to join us for worship on Sunday morning. We had one visitor. That was neat.

Today was my first sermon as interim pastor. Those gathered heard from Matthew 22:1-14 that the King of heaven has prepared a wedding feast for His Son and his Bride, the Church. They heard that the King provides all that they need to participate in this glorious feast, so that they are free from having to try and be good enough to be invited. And while they would never be able to be good enough, the very blood of the Lamb of God has washed them clean and made them holy. And it is this same Son who has given each of us His righteousness so we can come before the King as much beloved guests. They heard the Good News that the wedding feast to which they have been invited will last forever, and that the feast of the Lord’s Supper was a foretaste of the feast to come. I look forward to celebrating Holy Communion next Sunday.

This is a congregation in my own neighborhood. I don’t know what the tomorrows will bring for either of us. But it is both humbling and joyful to once again be thinking “pastorally” with a specific congregation in mind and in my prayers. It seems like it is time to do the work, while it is still day.

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