The painting was still being rolled off the walls inside the Crossroads Christian Ministry as Pastor Mack Granderson showed me around. It was a cool white cloak that would welcome the faithful into the space, newly claimed by the congregation.
Granderson proudly guided me through the meeting rooms, the sanctuary, the spacious communion hall, and a room that would become the library. There was still work to be done, there was even talk of knocking down walls for more space. But Granderson and his colleague Pastor Martin Romain kept talking about how perfect the building was.
“God has provided for us,” said Romain. “This is what we deserve after everything we’ve been through.”
In September, I wrote an article about the 10 United Methodist Churches in Harrisburg that were forced to close over two years ago by the local watchdog, the Susquehanna United Methodist Conference. I have spoken to the pastors and faithful of churches that have been closed and how they have behaved since. In the story, Granderson and Romain shared their experience – the loss of their church, formerly Derry Street UMC in Allison Hill, in the name of consolidation.
It was a time, they said, full of pain and closed doors. They had to leave the neighborhood they were rooted in and Granderson was even stripped of his UMC pastor’s license.
However, the pastors also shared the hope. They expressed their gratitude to The Rock Church in Harrisburg for allowing them to share the building space while they searched for a new home. When COVID hit, they found the joy of meeting for services outside or online. For as many doors that have closed, Granderson and Romain have found others that are opening.
And one of those doors was the entrance to an old Masonic lodge just outside the town of Oberlin, a community in the township of Swatara. With a new coat of white paint on the walls, this would be their new church.
“It was as if we were the Israelites in the wilderness,” Granderson said. “But, guess what? Canaan, it’s here.
Pastors and Crossroads members gathered on a Sunday morning in October for their first service at their new building on Harrisburg Street near the Harrisburg Mall.
Unlike Canaan, the building was not dripping with milk and honey when the worshipers arrived, but there was plenty of off-street parking, which may be the modern equivalent for people used to fighting for spaces. in the old locations of the city. Pastors have repeatedly pointed this out – 50 spaces and room for more on the acre of land provided with the building.
Granderson preached the sermon that first morning. It was about the history of Crossroads and everything that has changed in the past few years, how they got to where they are now. It was less about the loss and more about the restoration, Granderson said. The message caused many tears to flow. It was necessary.
“For everything that has been taken from us, I don’t know if there is anything that can make up for what we have been through,” said Romain. “They can’t reimburse us, but what we can do is forgive. It was just part of our trip. Now, we can let that go and move on.
They don’t really have an option because their congregation is growing rapidly. They are busy. Sundays average between 100 and 150 attendees, a number they haven’t seen in their days on Derry Street, before the shutdown and the pandemic.
It’s a diverse group. Some of the people who attended Crossroads stuck around, making the trip out of town to the new location. Others come from Enola, Middletown, Linglestown and other surrounding areas. Still others are joining their online streaming service, even people from out of state. And then there are neighbors from their new Oberlin site who have come to check it out.
It’s an assortment of racially, culturally and socio-economically diverse members, all of whom are welcome, Romain said. Services are in English and Spanish which they pride themselves on providing.
“The Bible is clear when it teaches that we are to treat everyone with love and kindness,” said Granderson.
Harrisburg resident Cheryl Allen attended Derry Street Church, and later Crossroads, for about 47 years. There are a few other people who have been around this long, she said, some maybe longer.
She remembers when they learned Derry Street was going to close. It was hard.
“I still miss Derry Street. It was a beautiful building, “she said.” But it was more important to keep the family together. “
That family bond has been the church’s not-so-secret weapon, the thing that has kept Allen and others, she believes, during the shutdown and the pandemic. The diversity of the limbs only makes the body stronger, according to Allen.
“We are a big family,” she said. “I like everyone.”
Allen is “delighted” to be in the new location. She loved the Derry Street Church, but no longer allowed herself to be bothered by the forced exit. Her family is intact, that’s all that matters.
Pastors echoed this sentiment, expressing a renewed awareness that a building cannot be their foundation, lest it be torn from beneath them.
“People became the centerpiece of my attention, not things,” said Romain. “Because things are temporary. Our real ministry is not the carpet, the paint, the walls or the ceiling. It’s the people and that hasn’t changed.
“It could all go away, and we would still have a church,” Granderson added. “How do we know? Because we’ve been through it.
When Crossroads was located in Allison Hill, community outreach was an important part of its mission. They haven’t forgotten this neighborhood. Granderson assured me that they would always make connections there. But he’s also excited to reach the new church district in Oberlin.
“We’re going to cover this community,” Granderson said. “We’re going to let people know who we are and what we are. If you want to be a part of it, you are welcome no matter who you are.
Crossroads Christian Ministry is located at 350 N. Harrisburg St., Oberlin. For more information visit www.thecrossroadsministries.org.
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