An aging congregation in a crime-ridden Philadelphia neighborhood has donated valuable real estate to a new urban ministry.

Christian Education (CE) National of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches has established the Urban Hope Training Center at the former site of Third Brethren Church in Philadelphia. The church gave its 250-seat worship center, three houses, and a three-story youth building to CE National.

"Members of the Third Brethren Church realized that they were not reaching their neighborhood for Jesus in the most efficient way possible," says Timothy Kurtaneck, CE National church relations director. "Most were older individuals who had moved away from the inner city into the suburbs."

The area around Third Brethren is known as the "Bad Lands" because of a high crime rate and illegal drug deals, according to Shawn Kidder, Urban Hope ministry coordinator.

In early 1998, members decided to close the church. However, board member Evelyn Tyson learned of CE National's desire to reach inner-city youth and convinced pastor Bob Kern and others that Third Brethren's location and buildings would be a perfect fit.

Leaders at CE National, based in Winona Lake, Indiana, initially planned to start an urban outreach in Chicago, but Third Brethren's offer changed their minds.

Kidder leads a team of eight, holding Bible studies, discipleship groups, and other programs at the center, designed to reach youth in the neighborhood.

Most of Third Brethren's former congregation now attend First Grace Brethren Church in Philadelphia. Tyson is pleased with the outcome. "This is not the end of the church," she says. "It's turning a new chapter in Third Brethren Church."

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