Bridging the Gap Ministries
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (Trinity on Main)
Mechanicsburg, PA, 17055

There are many barriers in life. Some barriers are obvious while others are not so clear. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (Trinity on Main), a small congregation in downtown Mechanicsburg had been in decline for some years. While dealing with the struggles of declining attendance, we still believed that our resources of a paid off building in the heart of town, retired caregivers, and the warmth of the community were significant. It was our desire to find God’s mission for us so that we could be God’s people on Main Street, to discover the barriers standing in our way, and to find ways to bridge the gaps that exist between our neighbors, the resources they need, and the people of Trinity.

We began to seek God’s direction in 2017 with the formation of a renewal group. We wanted to allow the Holy Spirit to renew us as individuals and as a congregation. This group of people studied Scripture and prayed together and imagined what God’s dream was for our congregation. As we met and prayed together, we began to experience the call of the Holy Spirit. We discovered that some of the barriers were Main Street and alley right behind the church. We continued to pray and asked God to show us what gaps existed and how we could bridge the gaps in the lives of people with the love of Jesus.

Over the past two years, Trinity on Main has intentionally offered free events to our community, seeking to engage our neighbors and build relationships, such as outdoor summer band concerts, a VBS for families (including supper and classes for teens and adults), Parent’s Morning Out (a morning of free activities for children), a Chili Tasting Bar on the lawn, a free Thanksgiving lunch, hosting several New Hope Ministry events, and housing the PA Homeschool Academy.

At the same time, we also began to work cooperatively with a dynamic group of churches and community partners. Over and over again we heard stories of how the Holy Spirit has been calling each of us into relationship with one another and with our neighbors. We became active participants in joint ecumenical efforts, such as an annual Good Friday Prayer Walk, prayer around the school events, quarterly community meals, and blessing boxes throughout the town.

The Mission Insite software made available to us through the Lower Susquehanna Synod, offered us valuable demographic information about our neighborhood such as:

  • 40% of our neighbors have limited or no access to a car and other modes of transportation are either limited or expensive.
  • The number one thing people were looking for in a church was “warm and friendly encounters.”
  • The growing demographics for our neighborhood in the next ten years are seniors and children.

Through these connections and our research, we discovered that some of the most pressing needs in our community are a clothing closet and food pantry within walking distance of downtown. These resources are available but inaccessible without transportation and we believe that the needs in our neighborhood are far more significant than the data shows. Our plans include developing an emergency food pantry and clothing closet as well as continuing to provide opportunities for “warm, friendly encounters” with our neighbors through a community-based Bible studies and prayer times, as well as ecumenical community meals and other activities.

The Bridging the Gap Ministry Team at Trinity on Main was formed in the summer of 2019. We believe that God called this group of eight people together as leaders for this ministry. Even though many of our congregational initiatives and social ministry projects are already bridging gaps in Mechanicsburg, this team of eight people has signed a focused two-year commitment to deepen our individual and communal faith through regular worship, Bible study, and prayer, so that we can then reach out to and be present with our neighbors. The team crafted a purpose statement to guide our work: ‘Bridging the gap to help our neighbors meet their physical, relational, and spiritual needs, in concert with the Synod’s mission: “Where the hungry are fed as we have been fed by Christ.”’

We continue to be amazed and humbled at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we are experiencing here at Trinity on Main. Step-by-step God has been present with us as we have moved forward with strategic work within our congregation, with our church council, and with our community and ecumenical partners. We continue to be touched by the stories and experiences of people as we share God’s love in our neighborhood. Our neighbors are not clients or guests – they have names – they are beloved children of God.

We are grateful to have received a Lower Susquehanna Synod Mission grant. This grant will help us to move forward with an increased investment of time, energy, and heart as we seek to be God’s people on Main Street.

Rev. Dr. Karen J. Durbin, Pastor
Vanessa Storlie, Seminarian and Pastoral Assistant