Eighth Avenue Place is a new faith community in nearby Homestead, PA. The pastor is a fellow Pittsburgh Seminary alum named Keith Kaufold, a former Jumonville staffer who, Lord willing, will become a Probationary Elder (what a horrible designation!) at Annual Conference in June.
This "new church start" is unique in our Annual Conference.
First, it's not a "church" in any traditionalist sense; it's a coffee shop. This is a place where people come together throughout the week to drink coffee, tea, and cocoa, play Uno, read the Bible together, listen to (and play) music, and talk. Located next to the Homestead Grays Bridge on the main drag in Homestead (not far from The Waterfront, where Robyn works), it's a great place to go and just "hang out" in a safe environment where everyone is accepted and all views are respected.
Second, Homestead is a community which is almost split 50/50 in terms of racial demographics. In spite of this, folks share a historic mistrust of one another. Given our Conference's near abandonment of the inner city and the fact that we've done little toward strengthening the African-American Church (which is on life support in our Conference), this could be a crucial place to reach a precious group of people we have been ignoring for some time; we can finally do more than just talk about racial reconciliation. I've been there; I can tell you that more is done in an hour toward racial reconciliation at Eighth Avenue Place than in a year of Conference meetings. This is real ministry. Keith has actually done more toward racial reconciliation in the last few months than probably any of our pastors, including myself (shame on me).
Third, Keith is an all-around good egg. When he shares his vision, it becomes immediately clear that he is a PTS grad. I've found that PTS grads, more than any other seminary represented in Western PA Conference, are driven by Christological concerns (this is, no doubt, largely due to the Pittsburgh presence of Andrew Purves, a driving force behind the Christological revival in the Presbyterian Church and throughout the American Mainline..."the Presbyterian Thomas Oden", if you will; Dale Allison, one of the top Jesus scholars of the moment; and Scott Sunquist, one of today's leading missiologists, who has a strong Christological focus). PTS grads also tend to be our strongest Wesleyans, but that's another post for another day.
Keith's vision is very deliberately Christologically driven, and he is quite serious about living out Incarnational doctrine, not simply affirming it in creeds or in paperwork. He has a real passion for sharing Jesus with the poor, the lost, and those who don't realize how important they are to God. It's a wonderful vision to have.
I would urge the readers of this blog (all two of you) to keep Keith and Eighth Avenue Place lifted up in prayer. I urge you to look into ways you could support this new ministry. I urge you to consider visiting the next time you're in Pittsburgh; they're open for coffee from 6 AM till about 9 PM. I also encourage those of you who are pastors in our Conference to vote for Keith when he appears before the Clergy Session this June. And buy him a cup of coffee in Grove City.