Church in the City

Chinese Christian Church & Center
I had the great pleasure sitting down with Laurence Tom, pastor of Chinese Christian Church and Center (CCC&C), last month for coffee.  CCC&C is one of many churches that I visited when I was an undergrad in the early 1990's, and although I never attended there regularly I had lots of friends who did.  (And I always enjoyed their annual square dance - who doesn't like a good square dance?)

Pastor Laurence and I don't go back as far as that, but our connection to each other is deep because our mutual love for the city and our mutual desire to see God glorified in the city.  As a kid from the suburbs, my understanding of living out one's faith in the city has evolved from the occasional forays to soup kitchens and rescue missions to a meaningful engagement with urban people, urban places, and urban systems.

So I was delighted to hear that this is on Pastor Laurence's heart as well.  As with many congregations in Philadelphia (including the one I am a part of), CCC&C has a lot of people who are here for a couple of years and then on to something else, whether because they are students or medical residents at a local institution or because they are pushed or pulled to another place because of economics or employment.

And Pastor Laurence's position is that, while they are under his care, whether for a year, a decade, or a lifetime, part of his job is to make sure that they really engage with the city in which CCC&C is located.  Urban Philadelphia, with all its grit and grime, becomes a place not to shun or to dart in and out of for quick-hit service opportunities, but rather a classroom and laboratory and tableau.

Congregants connect with CCC&C for good teaching, religious experiences, and good friendships, yes.  But also history and architecture and governance and struggle, which our city is rich in, even and especially Chinatown.  (It helps that Pastor Laurence has a city planning degree.)

In a metropolitan area of millions of people and thousands of churches, I am always glad to meet like-minded servants and to think that there are many others doing the same good work.  Kudos to Pastor Laurence and to CCC&C. 
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