Jeff McCrory admits it is a bit difficult to explain what exactly is happening in the small corner of Long Beach in which he finds himself. But that doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for how God is at work in this new thing that is coming into being.
It all started when McCrory answered a call – a literal one, on the phone – to provide pulpit supply for what is officially named First United Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, but which everyone simply called ‘The Little Brown Church.’ That was two years ago.
“When I started preaching on Sunday mornings at Little Brown there were about 12 people,” McCrory remembers. Despite what might seem like discouraging numbers, he loved it.
“It was so refreshing for me to be in the city – out of the ‘suburban ghetto’ in the diversity that is Long Beach.”
During this same time an administrative commission had been assigned to determine the future of Little Brown, with a likely outcome that the church would be closed and the property sold.
“I just kept thinking – there is a real opportunity for the kingdom in Long Beach that this church is not doing right now, but that could be possible. We could do something different.”
Fast-forward two years to the ‘something different’ that is unfolding.
“It is an ecumenical partnership ministry – a number of folks who are in partnership with us, using the building to impact the downtown area of Long Beach for the Kingdom of God,” explains McCrory.
– Northeast of the Well, a ministry born out of St. Andrews that seeks to reach out to those – whose lives have been broken by chronic abuse, addiction, incarceration and a lack of hope.
– A Brazilian (though Spanish speaking) Apostolic Catholic congregation that ministers to many first generation Latino immigrants
– An intentional monastic community that ministers to ‘young urban hipsters’
– A Korean Presbyterian ministry
McCrory himself is also a parish associate at Covenant Presbyterian Church – and Covenant’s pastor Rob Langworthy is on the board of the Little Brown Mission.
“We are not a congregation,” explains McCrory. But nor are these folks simply tenants renting space in a building to help pay the rent.
“We are a team of mission groups, a sort of mission hub,” he continued. His role is as pastor to the team, rather than pastor of a congregation.
“I’m tired of sitting around and coming up with a plan,” admits McCrory. “I’m more interested in getting out and doing things and seeing what the Holy Spirit is up to – and then following.”
“We have tended to connect with people who are only like us,” suggest McCrory. But that same impulse to connect, which is in our Presbyterian DNA, can help us connect with those who are unlike us – in race, in culture, in denomination, in class.
“Why not partner with different kinds of people, working in ministry together to further the Kingdom of God? Maybe this is our moment not to look inward, but to look outward.”
Video of Little Brown Mission Hub