BRONX, NY (September 1, 2015) — Cypress Avenue in the Bronx is a community known for its high levels of crime, gang violence, unemployment, and concentration of homelessness and undocumented residents. So what is a church seeking to minister there do?
Throw one heck of a street party with high levels of music, fun, and ministry.
Promised Land Covenant Church (PLCC) teamed up with MME (My Music Experience), a professional disc jockey company to sponsor just such an event, Community Outreach 2015, last Sunday. The founder of MME is DJ Mode, who has performed broadly and is the official dee jay of the New York Knicks, as well as a member of PLCC.
They organized the event with a broad mix of partners that included dance teams, a cosmetics company, the New York Police Department, New York Knicks, and several religious organizations.
More than 1,500 people attended the bash that was situated in a one-block radius, said Michael Carrion, Promised Land’s pastor.
“All churches that are planted in socioeconomically challenged contexts have to be creative in planning, prayerful and discerning in partnering, and above all else loving their community,” Carrion said. “Jesus saw the multitude and had compassion, and that is why we do it. The Covenant church in New York City is dedicated to the least, the last, and the lost.”
The congregation invested itself heavily in the event as it does in the area throughout the year, Carrion said.
“The church bathed the community in prayer for weeks prior to the event,” Carrion said. “We strategically planted prayer stations up and down the block and had our pastors praying for literally dozens of families.”
The depths of pain in the community could be seen and heard when a blessing was spoken over the area. “Several hundred people wept as we cried out for safety for our children and community,” Carrion said.
The church drew on the idea of the one-stop model of community services in which an array of programs and assistance are provided in a single location. “The PLCC strategy was to cultivate a context of safety, family, fellowship, and share the gospel,” Carrion said.
The fun came through a variety of activities, and in “keeping with an ancient custom in the South Bronx,” the church barbecued in the middle of the street and served more than 1,600 hamburgers and hot dogs, Carrion said.
A long history of tension between the police department and minorities has increased following the death of Eric Garner in July 2014, and Carrion said it was important to invite police to participate for reasons that went far beyond providing security.
“It assists the NYPD to know the key community players in the neighborhood, and we as the church need to be the bridge of reconciliation between civil municipalities and the black and Latino community,” Carrion said. “We need to create a Christ-centered space for relationship building.
A co-founder and board member of the Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School, Carrion said, “Children want to grow up and be pastors and cops in our community. This is a good way to build a positive image for that dream to be born.”
For more photos, see the Facebook photo page.