The Rev. Joseph Duncan is holding onto Ghanian traditions while embracing local cultures during his expansion throughout South Philadelphia communities.
“The culture in Ghana is very rich in loving each other,” said Duncan pastor of the Church of the Pentecost U.S.A., Inc. Pennsylvania District, and Pentecost International Worship Center (PWIC). “My responsibility is to take what I have here into the neighborhood but make it more applicable.”
“We are forming relationships and meeting the needs. In doing so, having pretty much more of an effective ministry not just a church,” he said.
As Duncan explains his role in both the church and the community he said, “there is a simple verse in the Bible that says for God so loved the world that he gave.”
“So my responsibility is not just to take the gospel into the neighborhood but to find out some of the needs of the neighborhood and find practical ways which we can meet that.”
The Church of the Pentecost was established in 1935. According to Duncan, it started in a village called Asamankese in Ghana, the West African country formerly known as the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast was a British Crown Colony on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa from 1821 to its independence as part of the nation of Ghana in 1957.
“The church grew into the village and came into the cities,” he said. “Then out of the cities the folks that were part of that church plantain travelled outside into all over the world.
“By the grace of the Lord, the Church of Pentecost is now in every nation of the world.”,
The Church of the Pentecost USA, Inc. Pennsylvania District has been in South Philadelphia for 10 years.
I flew out of the Church of Pentecost and another plan came up called PIWC, Pentecost International Worship Center,” Duncan said.
The Church of Pentecost serves as the parent church of PIWC.
“We realized that we were beginning to lose the younger generation and also because most of the folks that came in from Ghana, the language barrier wasn’t allowing the gospel to be spread,” he said.
“So the church came up with the PIWC. This was about 20 years ago and that is the part that I’m responsible for.”
Located on the 2500 Block of Wharton Street the two buildings stand side by side.
“Here in South Philadelphia is the main church and right next to it is PIWC which I took over about four years ago,” Duncan said. “The main purpose of PIWC is to take the word of the lord across the boundaries where our parents could not do it,
“My short term has been right here in South Philadelphia to be able to affect 20 streets down, 10 streets to my left and 10 streets to my right. Practically going door to door to make a connection, find the need, and meet the need.”
Like many Philadelphian churches, PIWC established feeding, educational, and clothing programs in addition to the spiritual aspect.
“Not only are we taking care of our fathers and our mothers by setting up the Church of the Pentecost for the next door because they’re not too fluent with the English, but then we set up the PIWC not just to connect with the younger generation but with our neighbors too,” Duncan said.
The concept of PWIC is to be a place for everybody and not just an African church.
“Anybody that has a need for God can walk in here and be comfortable because the medium that is used is English,” Duncan said. “The style of music is contemporary. Someone doesn’t come in and feel out of place.
“As much as it was great to hold onto the many of the African norms like wearing African attire to church, it kind of set up polarization. Folks feel like they don’t fit in or can’t come in because they dress or talk differently, but then you can’t throw away your culture just because you want to assimilate. The question becomes how do we take our culture, get to know somebody’s and mesh it together.”
People are getting the message that Duncan is sending out.
“It’s been three years since I’ve been here,” said Bernice Frempong, a recent Temple University graduate and PIWC Youth and Pensa Ministry Leader. “Having young people be so passionate for Christ and go out to help the community is very inspirational. One thing that really helps us all is being able to have the bond of community.”
Duncan takes that bond seriously.
“That’s one reason why we’re thankful for the feeding program because out of that everyone can participate,” he said. “Every week, I’m talking to Indians, Hispanics, Italians, and folks that are from here.
“We are taking care of our senior citizens and our young folk. It is through them we are able to make a difference.”