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Self Development of People

I am a big history buff – especially the history of churches and congregations. When I was finishing my undergraduate degree in history at George Washington University, I wrote my senior thesis on the design and creation of my home church’s current building in East Liberty, Pa., back in the 1930s. I loved reading through historic meeting notes where elders discussed the benefits of large Sunday school classrooms or the ways that the community would feel welcomed into this new massive church building.

In the two years I have been here at BMPC, I have also very much enjoyed digging through all the mission history of this congregation. From the funding and building of a hospital in India almost 140 years ago to the creation of the Urban/Suburban partnership with West Philadelphia in 1998, the legacy of mission is an important thread in the history of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.

One of my favorite documents to read though is not very old at all. It is a report from the Joshua Team, which was tasked with reviewing the church’s benevolent (mission) work in light of the many shifts in how churches and organizations were doing mission. In that moment Bryn Mawr made a clear decision to focus primarily on the work of COMPASSION, JUSTICE, and TRANSFORMATION.

Here is an excerpt from their report in 2002 that continues to remain relevant for us 15 years later (emphasis is mine):

We are followers of Jesus in a rapidly changing global context. An increasing number of people not only live in poverty but have no place in society. Isolated and having little control over their lives, they are at the mercy of powers that they may not understand. New and old forms of terror inflate anxiety, cut off sources of income and medical care and force homelessness. As these challenges confront us, our calling is to respond to complex brokenness and relate to people in ways that enable them to discover their own solutions and reconstruct their lives. A response faithful to the gospel is based on compassionate relationship and a vision of wholeness. We recognize this is a journey. Conditions will continue to change and God may ask us to do the same as we seek to be effective and faithful disciples.

This vision for mission continues to inform and compel the work we do as a community of faith.

It is also the reason we are so excited to be able to host this weekend staff people from the Office of the Self-Development of People for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Their work is based on these exact same principles of justice, compassion and community development.

On Saturday, the Rev. Alonzo Johnson and Margaret Mwale will lead our fourth annual Mission Summit – a gathering of all five of our mission committees and any other mission-minded church member who wants to learn more about the work we do as a church and how we can seek to do it better. It is not too late to register for this Saturday morning event. Click here to do so now.

On Sunday, we will be led in worship by Rev. Johnson, who serves as Coordinator for Self-Development of People and is also the former pastor of Oak Lane Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. After worship we will have the chance to hear more from them on the specific work that SDOP is doing around the country and the world.

I hope you will be able to join us as we continue to write a new chapter of mission history at BMPC.