Monday, September 24, 2012

The Armory

On Friday we took the first step toward knowing specifically where God is calling us to start a church in NYC.  There is an area in the Bronx where Pastor Bickel {our pastor} and Mr. Craig Hartman {Shalom Ministries, Ben was an intern with this ministry during college} have been praying about a church plant.  We don’t have specific leading toward any particular neighborhood, so we wanted to survey the area in the Bronx and be able to pray more specifically.  Mr. Hartman grew up in the Bronx and knows the area, so he and Pastor were our guides.

For those who don’t know…New York City is divided into five boroughs.  Each borough has a president who works under the mayor.  The boroughs are Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.  The Bronx is the northernmost borough.  Manhattan is technically an island and what most people think of as New York City.  Brooklyn and Queens make up the western part of Long Island.  And Staten Island…is an island.

There are several things that we want in a location for church planting.  We would like a good mix of commercial and residential.  This will give us foot traffic from people who perhaps don’t live in the neighborhood of our church.  But we also want to be able to reach into the community of people who live right there in the residential area.  We need there to be some parking available for church members, and we would like to be near a train stop.  Ben would like to be able to minister to Jewish people and Spanish-speaking people specifically.

We viewed several areas in the Bronx that have potential for church planting.  The Bronx is the smallest borough, but there are not many good churches in the area.  I learned that the Bronx used to be one farm, owned by the Bronk family.  People would say they are going to visit the Bronk’s.  Eventually the “ks” was traded for an “x” and we were left with “The Bronx”.  It is very hilly, with lots of trees and rock formations.  It was very lovely!

Four Neighborhood in Bronx
“A” is Riverdale, “B” is the Armory, “C” is the Grand Concourse, “D” is Morris Park

Riverdale is a large Jewish community on the north western side of the Bronx.  It was also the more wealthy area.  There are two highways which divide this neighborhood, and it seemed more exclusive and sprawled out.  It also looked as if everyone had a car.  It definitely had a more suburban feel to it, though it is still NYC.

We also drove through Morris Park, a well known Italian community on the Eastern side of the Bronx.  We saw some good possibility in this neighborhood also.

The focus of our trip was an area near the center of the Bronx – Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse.  Fordham Road runs east and west, and the Grand Concourse is a main thoroughfare from the north to the south Bronx.  This was a very busy commercial area – there were tons of people.  It is near Fordham University.

Not very far from this prime commercial area is a quiet neighborhood near an old landmark which everyone knows well – The Kingsbridge Armory.

Bronx Map
“A” is the Armory, “B” is the intersection of Fordham and the Grand Concourse

There was a decent amount of parking in this area.  There is an elevated train a block away.  There is talk of renovating the Armory and turning it into a recreation center – an ice rink, etc.  The neighborhood behind the Armory was quiet and very lovely, lined with many trees.  There was a mix of high rise apartment buildings and individual homes.  There is a high school and Lehman University down the street.  There was a little park.  There are some businesses, and the possibility of finding a store front in which to begin a church work.  And just a few blocks away is the center of the Bronx, a major commercial area.

The Bronx Armory
The Armory. 
{I didn’t get many pictures or very good ones because I was using the video camera.  My camera is still being repaired}

The Bronx Armory
The neighborhood behind the Armory – tenement buildings

The Bronx Armory
Lots of trees and a fairly quiet little neighborhood

The Bronx Armory
The elevated train is close by

We really liked this area and it seemed perfect for church planting.  We would have the possibility of reaching into Riverdale and ministering to the Jewish people who live there.  If we could tell people, “Our church is near the Armory” then everyone would be able to find us easily.

We still don’t have specific direction, but we have much to pray about.  There is a good possibility that that Lord could call us to this needy area.  But perhaps He has something else in mind for us.  Here are some of the things we are praying about:

  • Specific and clear direction regarding church planting in the Bronx, or elsewhere
  • Co-workers to help us start the church work
  • Timing.  “Our” timetable would say we are aiming for church planting in 2014.  But…we need to be on God’s timetable!
  • Should we raise support?  Should we use a mission board?  Which mission board?  How long to do deputation/how much support do we need to raise?  We need the clear leading of the Lord in all of these considerations.

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