Jeanne Radak: ‘It’s a ministry of relationships’
The congregation of Broad Street Ministry didn’t fit into any of the Presbytery of Philadelphia's existing categories, so it created a new one, says the Rev. Jeanne Bragdon Radak, a presbytery official.
April 28, 2009 | The Presbytery of Philadelphia is embracing unconventional congregations as part of its restructuring as a “missional presbytery,” says the Rev. Jeanne Bragdon Radak, the associate executive for congregational ministry.
In an interview with Faith & Leadership, Radak describes the challenges of incorporating the innovative Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia into the existing denominational structure. She talks about working with the Rev. Bill Golderer at Broad Street Ministry and the ways the presbytery is working with existing churches to help turn their focus outward into their communities as part of its overall missional plan.
Q: What’s your take on Broad Street Ministry?
I think they’re pretty cool. Bill [Golderer] has a way of having a vision and really being able to articulate that vision where other people can see it. You can have vision, but if no one else understands, it doesn’t really go anywhere.
Here’s a ministry of hospitality, a homeless ministry, an arts ministry. They’re also feeding people and having Bible study and worship. It’s a ministry of relationships, which I think is the direction the church has to go. It can no longer be about focusing on yourself. The church has to be about connecting people and catching that vision of what God’s calling us to do. I think Broad Street Ministry is a model of the direction the church has to go in the future.
Q: The relationship between the presbytery and Broad Street hasn’t always been smooth. Why?
Because this was so new, it didn’t fit into anybody’s model. No one knew what to do with it. I think there was a lot of feeling each other out. This is new territory for both the presbytery side and the Broad Street side. There needed to be some relationship building back and forth. I think between Bill and Erika [Funk, Broad Street’s youth initiative minister] and me and other members of the presbytery staff, we have been building those relationships and trying to figure out how we all do this together. The trustees also weren’t quite sure what to do -- are they [members of the Broad Street community] like tenants renting our building, or are they a ministry of the presbytery? That conversation was going back and forth. Finally, the acting general presbyter asked me, “Would you talk to them and figure this out?”
Presbyterians like everything so neat and boxed up. We were able to start going back and forth: What are we going to call this thing? Do we need to name this thing?
We developed a whole new category totally outside the Book of Order: the missional faith community. That’s “missional,” as in being sent out by God. They’re being sent out into the neighborhood to build relationships with the people God has sent them to.
We put something together and tried to make the Book of Order fit where necessary. We went to the presbytery in January  with the missional faith community guidelines. They had a couple of questions and we received them as a missional faith community. These are guidelines. Although Broad Street is a model we’re working from, we want to encourage others to be able to try something new.
We want to make room for emerging ministries. Now we have chartered churches, new church developments, immigrant faith communities, community ministries and missional faith communities. The idea is: How do we become a presbytery that welcomes all the people of God, not just those who fit in our categories? If we want churches to be welcoming, we need to figure out the ways to model that.
Our whole model now is not: How do churches support the presbytery? But: How do we get it so the presbytery supports congregations? It’s the congregations who are in the neighborhoods, being sent out. We want them to be missional, to discern where God is calling them and go outside their doors and reach the people that God has called them to. Broad Street Ministry is the perfect example of that.
It isn’t about you; it’s about where God is calling you. I see our presbytery leadership really turning that way. We need to be working toward this.