Cosmopolitan Baptist Church: Small church with a big youth presence

February 4, 2017 GMT

Cosmopolitan Mission Service Baptist Church, a small church located in North Philadelphia, makes a difference in people’s lives regardless of its size. Evangelism and reaching out to youth are its hallmark efforts as it works to be a church defined by its love for people.

“Love and acceptance put those two together — that describes the church,” said Senior Pastor Calvin Kelly, pastor of Cosmopolitan for 12 years. “I’m working with a group of people that love the Lord and love the pastor and pastor’s wife. And they go along with the program we try to present.”

Kelly said Cosmopolitan can be described as a small church, with an estimated 50 to 70 members. It’s housed in a former electric substation that was converted into a rowhome-like space, lending the sanctuary a quality reminiscent of an extra long, narrow living room.

Above all, however, Cosmopolitan is active, working to be an impactful presence in the lives of the members, the community and its youth.

“This church is a family church, we all know each other — even if one doesn’t come we know what’s going on with them,” said Destinie White, 15, a member for nine years. White is involved in several ministries at the church, including praise dance; music ensemble; youth ministry — which includes community outreach, a Bible study and regular social outings; and Pastor’s Aide, for which she serves as the only youth. Such participation, she said, has helped her grow spiritually and socially.

“I feel important because I know at some churches, all adults take care of everything.I grow spiritually [here]. When I was younger, I really didn’t understand why we came to church but now I do. I feel like I’m growing because I have a care for people. I pray more.” White added that when she dances with the praise dancers, it’s “overwhelming. [because] I’m ministering to somebody else in the congregation.”

Deaconess Charlotte Jefferson, a member for 31 years, said Cosmopolitan’s attentiveness to the youth has helped it maintain a youth presence, which she said “is one of the biggest changes — transitioning from the older members that passed on. [Now] we have a lot of youth members.” Jefferson noted that Cosmopolitan “celebrates children, from the smallest to the oldest,” and their accomplishments, “from the smallest to the biggest.”

The one quality that has remained constant throughout her time at Cosmopolitan, she added, is the love, something she especially felt when the Lord called her sister home two years ago and the church came together to support her with phone calls, cards and prayers.

But Jefferson is also the leader of one of Cosmopolitan’s most charitable ministries, the soup kitchen, so she is responsible for showing as much love as she receives. She takes the role seriously.

“It’s an awesome ministry, it allows us to evangelize, meet the needs of the community and love on them,” she said. “We [don’t] give the clothing we wouldn’t wear ourselves. [And] we [don’t] give them food we wouldn’t eat ourselves. If they don’t come in, we go out — from Broad and Pike to Old York Road and Pike, as far down to Germantown and Indiana, giving out hot plates, clothes and tracts.”

As a result of this work, Jefferson has formed a special relationship with one of the women who visits the soup kitchen, Barbara, whom she ministers to regularly.

“She was battling schizophrenia and was in a struggle with her son who also has schizophrenia,” said Jefferson. “She sits with me outside. From coming here, praying and talking, she not only was able to get an apartment, the church was able to give her [housewares] and food. She’s even able to hold down a job. She still comes to talk to me even though she battles with sitting for a long time.”

A strong familial element also exists at Cosmopolitan, starting with the leadership. First Lady Diane Kelly is the Sunday school superintendent, the women’s ministry leader and the leader of the evangelism ministry. She also plays the keyboard for the Sunday service, along with her and Pastor Kelly’s son, describing it as a fulfilling experience.

“I’m thrilled that he’s playing and that he’s playing with me. He took what he learned and he far surpassed me,” she said. “[And] I feel like it’s my calling to be involved.”

Their daughter-in-law, Dana Kelly, serves as the church secretary, choir director and a youth leader, all while working a full-time job.

“At times it’s stressful, but I love to serve the Lord,” she said. “If anybody asks me to do something, I don’t mind doing it. I love my church family.”

Greg and Sharee Mann met at Cosmopolitan. They attend the church with their son, and are both youth Bible study teachers. They co-teach the class once a week.

“I love it. We teach together,” said Sharee. “It’s a conversation. We’ll pick a topic, he’ll research a scripture, I’ll research a scripture and we bring it to the children. I will say something to elaborate and he will say something to elaborate. Sharee continued that she gains knowledge from this exchange and a “joyful feeling [because] I enjoy seeing the children learn it.”

Greg, the youth minister, added that Bible study is a nonjudgmental space for the youth to “talk about what they are going through. We have topic of the night, ‘God of the Impossible,’ using Bible stories of situations where God showed who he was in people’s lives. It gives them an outlet so they can go through life and spiritually grow.”

Mann said he has experienced his own spiritual growth at Cosmopolitan through the love he’s experienced there and Pastor Kelly’s teachings, which he described as practical. “The messages pastor preaches help my everyday life. I take it week to week and apply it,” he said. [And] you can feel the love and relationship he has with God — he wants us to have that same relationship.”

Deacon Donald Murray, a member for 10 years, agreed.

“Pastor stands on the Word, teaches the Word and lives the Word. He is an example to the community,” said Murray. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot being under Pastor Kelly — my walk and talk.”

Kelly said his vision for Cosmopolitan is to continue to being an example in the community, especially through outreach.

“We love them. We pray for them. [And] we want to continue to meet their needs — to feed and clothe them,” said Kelly. “We have to do what I call more than a four-wall religion. We have to go out and spread the gospel. I want us to reach out to the community and that’s more than the people that come in this building.”