It was the Friday before Easter last year when Pastor Mack Granderson was called into the office of Bishop Jeremiah Park.
Before this meeting, Granderson had already caught wind of the Susquehanna United Methodist Conference decision to close and consolidate Harrisburg’s Methodist churches. What he didn’t know was that his Derry Street church was one of them.
After the bishop told the pastor that the Derry Street United Methodist Church (UMC) was slated to close, Granderson had a series of meetings with the church’s administrative council to mull over the future of their congregation.
They decided to write a letter and distribute it to members of their church. The letter explained that the church had no choice but to close and listed three options. The could join the new Journey church on 29th and Derry streets, join another Methodist church or stay as a congregation and co-worship at the Rock Church on 15th and Market streets.
The congregation voted overwhelmingly to stay together.
“God stepped in. He did not allow us to splinter,” Granderson said. “He gave us a place to worship in this place called the Rock Church, which opened their arms to us in the most loving fashion.”
Now, members of the former Derry Street UMC and some other Methodists who have lost places of worship call the Rock Church their home. Along with a new location, Granderson and his congregation also have a new name: Crossroads Christian Ministries.
“We have a dynamic congregation,” said Granderson. “When you walk through the door, you feel the love here.”
Days after their original meeting, the bishop handed Granderson a letter stating he was no longer licensed as a Methodist pastor. A week later, Granderson was ordained as a Baptist pastor by Pastor Martin Romain of the Crossroads Baptist Church and was able to start worship at the Rock Church.
“Glory be to God and all celebration, we have never stopped worshipping,” said Granderson. “We have never stopped doing our ministries, we have never stopped our Bible study, we have never stopped learning, we have never stopped teaching. We have continued to go forward, and we never stopped growing.”
Granderson started at Derry Street UMC seven years ago, but the church has been around since the late 19th century. During Granderson’s time, they had a small congregation but many food and clothing programs for their community.
Though the majority of worshippers were Latino, there were members from many countries, including parts of Africa and Asia.
Crossroads Baptist Church was founded in 1989 in Uptown Harrisburg but spent 20 years on the side of the Derry Street property in the children’s chapel. At one point, they moved out of the city to Lemoyne, but Granderson invited Pastor Romain and his congregation back one week for a service. Then another and another.
“Something about Pastor Mack Granderson clicked between the two of us,” Romain said. “The next thing you know, we’re in shared ministry.”
Every week, the two alternated services—one week Romain would preach and then Granderson the next. With two services, the church started growing, gaining more members from different cultures and denominations. One year, they were even recognized by the United Methodist Conference as one of the most inclusive churches out of all 880 churches that were invited.
According to Granderson, the church was just gaining momentum when the conference decided to consolidate Harrisburg’s Methodist churches. Though they are still growing as a new congregation, they lost many original members after moving to the Rock Church.
“I think another thing that was really painful for the congregation was the fact that generations of families were faithful to that church regardless of how the city itself changed,” Romain said. “For many of them, that was their family church, and they were heartbroken when it was closed.”
Granderson said the Rock Church has been nothing but welcoming, and they fell into an easy cohabitation. They even collaborated on summer programs together and for the Rock Church’s annual Christmas dinner.
Even though they love their new location and the people in it, some members are still worried about the community they left behind. Claude Phipps was a volunteer for Derry Street UMC’s Meals on Wheels and other food preparation programs. In 2018, the church fed almost 40,000 people.
“Where do they get their food at now?” Phipps asked.
Romain, Granderson and their council even put in a bid for the Derry Street church property not long after they were told they had to leave. They were denied for reasons the pastors still do not know. Recently, they put in another bid, but are also looking at other properties.
But right now, Crossroads Christian Ministries is happy where they are and encourage others who have lost their place of worship to join them.
“God made that possible, us being right here, and he’s not finished with us yet,” said Granderson. “The best truly is yet to come.”
Crossroads Christian Ministries is co-located with the Rock Church, 1501 Market St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit their Facebook page.