Monday, August 15, 2011

Oxford Circle Visit

Yesterday I took a rainy drive into the edges of Northeast Philly to worship at Oxford Circle Mennonite Church. I had heard some good things about this multiracial urban church. And I have had the chance to meet their pastor, Leonard Dow a time or two. CMCL Senior Youth will remember him as the preacher at last year's ACC Youth Retreat. He's a fantastic preacher -- really one of the best I've heard in a long time. He manages to combine a strong black preaching style with solid Anabaptist theology informed by contemporary culture and his local context (click here for a little bio on him from EMU).

The church has also founded a community development corporation, which owns the building the church new meets in. It's a 40,000 square foot former medical clinic. Obviously they've done lots of learning on the job about being a landlord and have worked hard to take good care of this community asset. I got a mini tour of the place yesterday, and heard some great stories about the work they do.

Interestingly, the neighborhood and church are directly adjacent to a huge, huge military storage facility. Some of it is still functioning for that purpose, but after World War II, most of the barracks connected to the facility were closed. Some of these were turned into subsidized housing. That's why the church is there. Church planters from Lancaster Mennonite Conference started a Sunday School ministry near the housing projects 50 years ago.

One more thing. I want to mention that the offices of the Oxford Circle Christian Community Dev. Association include a little gallery space for artists. Right now they happen to be hosting part of an exhibit by an installation/performance artist from NYC named Gene Schmidt. The exhibit is called Lovetown PA, and involved spelling out the famous "love" passage from I Corinthians across the city of Philadelphia. It's awesome.

He did a similar work called Manhattan Measure a few years ago that involved literally measuring the entire length and width of the island of Manhattan on foot with yardsticks. Also awesome.

I'd say this visit was the highlight of my weekend, except we had also taken a day trip to the beach on Friday and hosted a pool party for Esmé's birthday on Saturday. So I've been having a blast all weekend.


Blogger gierschickwork said...

Chad sorry I missed your visit! I'm glad you got to see the art gallery space upstairs which I curate. If you're the Facebook type, friend us at Second Space at OCMC. Hope to meet you sometime.

14 September, 2011  
Blogger daryls said...

I'm a big Leonard Dow fan, all the way back to his days playing BBall at EMC, while I played in the pep band in the stands. Leonard has some fabulous energy for building healthy, interactive communities of diverse persons.

15 September, 2011  

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