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Finally . . . our 2020 CPC in The Hill Park BBQ video . . . we are so thankful for all who made this ministry possible this summer . . .
➥ CPC New Haven Life Groups
➥Our Volunteers from our Lutheran church family sisters and brothers
➥Our many supporters who gave out of their own resources to help with the costs
➥Our own CPC in The Hill church family, the Life Groups
➥Our sister church, CPC Milford
➥And . . . so many others and especially our Trowbridge Square Park friends and neighbors.
This past Wednesday (8/14/2019), CPC in The Hill had the privilege of bringing its 7th 2019 Summer Park BBQ to the Trowbridge Square Park here in the Hill. I do a little park preaching before we eat. And, the people in the park come and listen: parents, adults, children, and even teenagers. They hear a gospel message that is relevant to who they are as residents of the Hill: Adults just hanging, dads making good by spending some time with their kids, moms trying to let their kids run off some energy, gang members, some homeless, addicts (maybe some selling, too), and too many unparented (wandering) teenagers. They all come and listen.
This, in part, was my park sermon thas evening:
This is not a verse of condemnation. Although many, of course, read or take it this way. The verse is the way home. Yet, we can’t get there by ourselves. God is the one who gets us home. This is why the Apostle Paul continues in verses 24-25:
First, we hear in Romans 3:23 that “all” have sinned. This is good news (well, sort of). Really, though, isn’t it good to know that we all, every single individual—rich or poor, suburban or urban, suburban or . . . Hill [they laugh], politician or CEO or regular people like us—each carry the label “sinner.” And, as such, each have fallen short of God’s glory. No special people. All have sinned. All fall short of God’s glory. All–everyone needs a way home. And, so, again, this verse is our way home.
How many here have had the thought that I’m not all I was created to be? [Hand up all over.] Anyone here messed up so much you believe there is no way out? It’s ruined; life is ruined; seems like there is no exit. No hope. [Hands up.] Who here has tried to fix their life and you know it’s impossible? [Many admitted to this. Hands.] Any here actually fix it? [No hands.] Well, again, this is why this seemingly rather condemning verse is good news. We know what we have fallen short of. This tells us what needs to be fixed. What needs to be restored.
We are unable to fix this (as some of you have already admitted). We are incapable of restoring ourselves. So, God must do it. God has provided a substitute for us. Jesus is God’s propitiation (yes, that’s a big word, put simply, it means Jesus is) our substitute. He took our place and paid in full our sinful debt to God. And, God wants to restore us to His glory, that is, the image he originally created us for. He has provided a way home, back to that glory.
Back to what we were created for.
It is important to know what we will be restored to. We can’t just be restored to a better version of ourselves. Heavens, no! Because, everything about us is tainted by our sinful nature–not just the mistakes we make, but the actual, very core of our being is corrupted. A better version of ourselves isn’t what we want (really, it isn’t). This isn’t what God had in mind.
Our sinful nature. This is why we fall short, for all–I say it again, for all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. This is good news to us. None of us needs to question who we are: we are all sinners. None of us need question what it is we have fallen short of: all fall short of God's glory.
This is our way home.
So, knowing what we are restored to is very important. We are to be restored to the glory that is found in Jesus Christ. He has restored what Adam broke. What our forefathers and parents keep breaking. What we keep breaking. We need Him, first, as our substitute and, then, we begin to be conformed (restored) to the image of Christ. That is what it means to be transformed from glory to glory.
But, you see, here’s our problem: Everything else about our world (all around us—the people, the systems, the government, business, advertising, the news, everything) pushes us to be conformed to this world (conformed the way they want us to be, the way it makes it all work for them, the way that keeps us all unequal) or to simply just be a better version of ourselves (that is, that version of course, that the world thinks is best) or, more likely, a better version of somebody else’s idea of glory. That is why Jesus is not only our substitute, paying for our sin, but also who we are to be like (that’s the glory we want, the glory we need restored). We are now to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
This verse is good news.
This verse is our way home.
2019 Summer Park BBQ Ministry
For those stopping by, here is our 2019 Summer Park BBQ Ministry slide video . . . enjoy
Park Preaching: God has already started bringing His salvation to His Mountain, to the Hill
Innocent people get caught up in our sin. Everyone here knows what “sin” is, right? It’s our mistakes. It’s our evil. It’s our decisions to not do good. I don’t have to explain this, right, you all know what sin is? (Plenty of hands up.) Well, it’s also part of our nature. It’s our bent. And, you all know innocent people too many times reap the results, the consequences of our sin. How many here admit their sin hurt other people? (Hands up.) So, you know what I am talking about. God has something for you—and for you who have been hurt by the sins of others.
Well, here in Isaiah 25, God has something for those who had reaped the results of sin and rebellion against God. Especially the innocent, who had to share in the punishment, the exile, when God dealt with their sin. There would be a time when God would make a feast for all peoples on His mountain. (Strange, it seems every time God does something to heal and forgive and restore His people, it’s over food—do you wonder why CPC in The Hill does so many things related to food!)
God promises that “he will swallow up” the “covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.” And what is this “covering,” this “veil”? It is death. For, Isaiah tells us in the next line: he “will swallow up death forever.” This is the end of sin. We, right here in the Hill, have seen too much death. We know this covering because we have seen it. This is the veil that hangs over us: Death. Death from violence. Death from bad (sinful) decisions. Senseless. Needless. Death.
God promises he will take this away. And we hear, “the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” Tears are what we feel when the results of sin hit us, our sins, the sins of others, the sin that infests our lives and community: tears from fatherless homes, tears from lose of loved ones, tears because life is hard and lonely. God will wipe away those tears.
And, God will take away “the reproach of his people.” We all know what shame is, do we not? Anyone here felt shame, shame because of what you have done? (Believe it or not, plenty of hands went up all around, even from a few of the men.) Shame because of what has been done to you? (Again, hands up.) Well, God promises to take this reproach—the marks of sin—from you.
Here’s that promise, on that day, after all our waiting and wandering, God will save us. He will bring us salvation. “Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation,” Isaiah writes. You see, though, God has already begun removing the veil of death. He has already begun wiping away the tears. He has already taken away your shame. Because Jesus has already paid the debt we owe. Jesus has already remedied the sin that separates us from God and from one another. Jesus, God’s Son, has already died on that cross to take away your shame, to take away sin and death’s reproach. All you need is receive this gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sins. God has already brought salvation to His mountain, to this Hill.
And, God has provided a place, a church, to find strength, be encouraged, discover hope, find a family . . . the place to be assured that God has brought this salvation to you, that he is wiping away your tears and has taken away your shame . . .
A pastor's message of gratitude for being empowered to serve the people of the Hill
I am so very grateful to the many people who empowered me to serve and minister to those that live in the Hill community of New Haven, Connecticut. I get that not everyone can uproot, change vocation, or relocate into the proximity of neighbors who live in neighborhoods like the Hill. So for some, God’s plan is to reallocate and relocate their own resources to support the likes of people such as my wife, Lisa, and me in a neighborhood like the Hill, ministering in, with, and through a church like Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill. The generosity of friends, family, and some we’ve just met and some we haven’t met yet–all have empowered me to pastor a church and a community in a place called the Hill.
The Hill is actually a famous neighborhood that few people outside know about–well, at least famous for its place in American and New Haven’s history. The Hill, however, is more infamously known as “Sodom's Hill.” Yet in the early history of New Haven, the Trowbridge neighborhood (where Lisa and I actually have an apartment) was designated as a suburb–yes, that is correct, a suburb.
Back in early American history, the wealthy and affluent settled in city-centers, that is, urban living. As the immigrants and the poor increased in New Haven, the bottom-demographics were moved to new quarters in the sub-urban regions of the City. Think walking, horse, and horse and buggy as the primary modes of travel, so suburbs were basically the outer districts of the urban area. In fact, if you dig down, now, under the sidewalks and tar of the roads around Trowbridge Square (where our apartment in the Hill is located), you’d find the old trolley car tracks; for this suburb was the trolley-hub to catch a ride to West or East Haven or even downtown New Haven. Ironically there is a little hill (again think horse and walking hill) to get up to Trowbridge, thus, the naming of our Hill community: “We’re going up the hill to catch a trolley” . . . “going up the Hill to walk home” . . . became over time, “We’re going to the Hill” . . . “We live in the Hill . . .” And as this small district settled with immigrants and the indigent of that day, it became dense as a very impoverished, poor suburb of New Haven, eventually being saddled with the nickname “Sodom's Hill.”
My supporters empower me to minister in this messy and hurting, but beautiful community, relocating their financial blessings to help the gospel to be planted in the heart of the Hill, changing lives, and lifting them and their neighbors above its unsavory nickname.
To many, the Hill community is an uncool place. Planting and growing a church in the midst of an urban (aka old suburban), under-resourced, minority-populated (51% Hispanic; 39% Black) neighborhood is crazy, yet absolutely needed: 43% unemployment; nearly 85% of Hill residents live in subsidized housing; and, 70% of New Haven’s parole population is resident in the Hill. This neighborhood needs a gospel-centered, community-focused church in its midst. My financial partners empower me to empower our congregation to focus on the community. And, I am so proud (in every right sense of that word) that is exactly what CPC in The Hill is known for: being a church that is for its neighborhood, one that is present, many times outside its building’s walls, serving its community.
The presence of CPC in The Hill helps to ameliorate the cliché that address is destiny. And, by God’s grace and the power of the gospel, we see lives changing, which will cause this community to flourish. Outside support allows me to spend time pastoring amidst this very poor and hurting neighborhood, and, as well, to be involved in the community, like as a member of the Hill Management Team and by showing up, literally, everywhere in the Hill. And, such outside support ensures I can continue sharing the gospel and, even, as it so happens, just outside my apartment door do some regular street pastoral counseling.
God certainly has prepared me for this ministry, theologically, as well as, socially and vocationally. I like calling it now, “My-Lived-Out-Theology.”
I had always thought these past 20 years were God’s seminary-training for me. I've written on this (i.e., social action, church, and evangelism), articles, even a book, and in some way that has been self-preparation for this ministry, as well.
I continue to be humbled by my call to the Hill. Humbled more so that people, friends, churches (a few churches anyway) support, especially financially and materially, our gospel work here in the Hill. I am so grateful to those who give of their own resources so I am empowered to serve and, as some in the Hill refer to me, to be the pastor of the Hill.
Although I have yet to reach 100% of our fundraising needs, still because of the generosity of others, I have the ability to do this full time. And, trust me, it takes full time. This allows me to be where I need to be when I need to be there; not just hospital visits or at a kitchen table or a church activity, but out my front door to counsel those, who, almost as if they are waiting for me, need a word or a prayer from the Pastor, to show up at town and community meetings, and simply to be visible in the needed places of Hill life.
I will find out this coming week regarding our FY20 budget (our fiscal year is 9/1–8/31), whether it was approved or modified. Yes, I am a little worried this year--our church does grow and will grow mostly with the same population that lacks resources, and more people means more resources needed to minister. We are a church that has become well known so our outreach activities (especially ones related to food!) increase in people served; thus, our need for our own resources to increase. The FY20 budget reflected a mere 6% increase; but without hitting our fundraising goal (so far) for FY19 (43k and currently at 83%), I am not sure where we stand (next week I will). A vision budget would include the funds to help obtain someone dedicated to reaching Hill teenagers and, as well, funds to help people in our congregation to start businesses and to start our own coffee shop, our own food co-op here in the Hill. But these must wait until more outside brothers and sisters see this vision as well.
Nonetheless, I am blessed to be in a place where I can minister the gospel, demonstrating what loving one’s neighbor looks like in an under-resourced neighborhood; to be a pastor to the people of the Hill; to disciple a church to be a model of God’s kingdom; and, to be present in such a way to multiple opportunities for Hill men and women, Hill children, boys and girls, Hill young people, teenagers so they may find eternal life and a new life in the Hill.
I am grateful that others give out of their own resources so that I am empowered to be a pastor in the Hill. If you'd like to know more how you can help, email me at ChipCPCtheHill@gmail.com.
“No other church does this.”
“No other church does this.”
I’ve heard this a number times at events and meetings over the years I have been in the Hill as pastor of CPC in The Hill.
If one thing stands out over these years, thus far, I find it rather amazing the ability our Hill church has to connect with its community.
I have come to truly appreciate our core group here at Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill. This small group of people five years ago, a little confused, hurt, skeptical, yet still discipled well (thanks Pastor Tolivar!) to be a family and be focused on loving their neighbors, moved forward in confidence that Christ was still in their midst. Our congregation has been able to maintain its weekly Sunday worship, its discipleship and its Ladies' Bible study, and, as well, sustained its impact on the community through multiple events and activities throughout the year. Almost without fail, at a community event or activity, someone would approach me to say they appreciate how we “get into the neighborhood and love on the people.”
Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill has maintained and even strengthened its connection to its neighborhood, the Hill community of New Haven, CT. The summer “In His Midst” park BBQ ministry sees, now, between 65-85 people each week at Trowbridge Square Park, for hot dogs and hamburgers, a park sermon, prayer, and some neighborly fellowship. On the last evening in August, we pass out 100 backpacks (that's to the Beacon Bikers) and some school supplies to all the kids. To celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of school, the Hill Church hosted a neighborhood sidewalk BBQ down the street from our place of worship at the home of one of our members. All our neighbors are invited. We sent letters to all the summer soccer camp families, went up and down the street inviting everyone sitting on their porches and front steps, and told people walking by on the sidewalk to join us. In the end we saw easily over 120 people stop by—they eat, we talk, share our stories and listened to theirs, and shared the love of Jesus with our neighbors.
Of course other churches to what we do. The reason, perhaps, that we stand out and people says this is because we through ourselves with intention into our community. We show up a lot. Everyone we can. Starting the first Wednesday in July, we'll be back at Trowbridge Square Park with our grill, loving on our park neighbors.
Donations to help this Summer's Park BBQ would be greatly appreciated >> 2019 CPC in The Hill Summer Park BBQ Ministry Fundraiser
Wasted Blogger, Chip M. Anderson
I am the pastor and church planter for Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill; a flawed practitioner of Wasted Evangelism. I am learning about Wasted Evangelism through my experience in The Hill and through the good people of CPC in The Hill.