Crossroads in the News

August 21, 2011

When Pastor Tim Witmer proposed to change the J.R. Miller Memorial Presbyterian Church to Crossroads Community Church, he knew that he was taking a risk.

“I know how hard it was to name a child in a community of two, let alone when you have to put together a new name for a church,” said Witmer.

According to Witmer, the word ‘Crossroads’ is as significant to the church’s location on Heather Road in Upper Darby as it is to its members. The double nature of Crossroads does not end at its name, in fact, in Witmer’s 25 years at Crossroads, it has defined the church.

The J.R. Miller Memorial Presbyterian Church was established in 1920, named after the beloved pastor of St. Paul’s, whose workers bought the tract of land on which the church would be built. With aspirations of grandeur, construction on the church building began in 1927. An artist’s rendition of the proposed building showed an elegant structure that covered a large section of its street. However, not even churches were exempt from the Great Depression, and the church was only able to afford the Sunday school chapel portion of the building.

A growing Upper Darby community led to a growth in the church, and by 1955, the J.R. Miller Memorial Presbyterian Church was thriving. However, by the time Witmer was installed as senior pastor of the church in 1986, the place of worship was low on luck and congregants.

Witmer knew that the church needed a new direction, and once the name had been changed, the only direction was forward. One who visits Crossroads today can tell that it is not your typical church.

“The purpose of Crossroads Community Church is to meet people at the crossroads of life with the gospel of Christ and help them along with spiritual growth,” explained Witmer.

The only thing that matches the abundant faith at Crossroads is the philanthropy and diversity of its members and leadership. Crossroads really is a crossroads of world cultures, representing 53 nationalities as well of people of all ages, economic standing and physical ability.

“By God’s grace, we’re trying to reach everyone in the community,” said Jackie Serafim, administrative assistant at Crossroads.

The Pioneer’s Club for children collects school supplies for underprivileged children in Uganda, while the Owl Ministry hosts meals for the elderly.

The diverse group of congregants work in an array of occupations, from blue-collar professions to doctors and college professors.

Sight impaired congregants help with camp registration, while congregants who learned English at the almost daily classes at Crossroads help integrate new members from their nation and other nations.

“We know what it’s like to be an immigrant,” said Serafim.

Crossroads helps immigrants with all aspects of the American naturalization process. The Church’s new Immigrant Welcome Center, spearheaded by Liberian immigrant William Jarwood, helps new immigrants with all types of paperwork as well as jobs, housing and other essentials of American living. Crossroads even helps unite “natural adversaries.”

“Our country’s motto is e plurubus unum. Out of many, one. And we really demonstrate that here. In our congregation, we have people who would be geo-political adversaries, but they’re sitting together in the pews. People from India and Pakistan for example... And they’re really committed to serving each other,” said Witmer.

Crossroads has become a vital seed in the ‘Weed and Seed’ federal program, helping weed out bad influences in the community and, “seed the community with the Gospel, with the good news, which changes people from the inside out, and changes lives, and changes families, and then changes communities. Alongside of that, and very closely integrated with that are the other activities we do. We hope to be a light in darkness and hope for the hopeless in a place and time when there’s not a lot of that,” said Witmer.

Rather than rejecting congregants who have fallen on hard times, Crossroads accepts them, and does everything they can to help.

“We are not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners. There’s nothing for show here,” according to Doctor Witmer.

Looking at Crossroads Community Church today, a church with a diverse congregation, beautiful new addition, ever expanding programs and abundant faith, it is hard to imagine that just 25 years ago, there were only 40 congregants. It is this rapid expansion and the church’s energetic members and leadership that will take Crossroads far in the future. Using the pedestal that the Church now has in the Upper Darby community, Witmer and Pastor Dave van Meerbeke hope to reach more of those in need in Upper Darby, and help more immigrants to integrate smoothly into American culture. At some point, they hope to establish sister churches in Easter Delaware County, according to van Meerbeke.

However, for now, they will continue to focus on the completely diverse congregants that brighten up Crossroads every day. Crossroads will continue to expand, not because they have a good business plan or advertisements on every corner of Upper Darby, but because they are good people who run a good church. As a former congregant who moved away said, “Who wouldn’t want to be part of this church?”

Article reprinted by permission of the Delaware County News Network.