The St. Paul Chapel Baptist Church has been a dominant place of worship in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood for 83 years.
“Being a community oriented church is what has kept St. Paul so strong,” said the Rev. Joshua Goodin Sr., pastor of St. Paul Chapel Baptist Church. “From [the] Rev. Paul Clifton Jackon’s inception all the way down to my pastoring at this present time.”
“We believe if you’re going to be a church in a particular location you ought to be a church within the community that’s serving the community where you’ve been positioned,” he said.
The South Philly native, often referred to as the young preacher, is no stranger to the people he serves or delivering a word that resonates with them.
The way, the truth, the life aren’t random words that hang on the pulpit walls, but they speak to the core value and the mission of St. Paul Baptist Church.
“Those words come from John’s gospel in the 14th chapter. Jesus says to the disciples I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Goodin said. “It speaks directly to the church. Being a Christ centered ministry. The way that we do what we do is by following the module of Jesus.”
St. Paul Baptist Church has a reputation of being a resource for anyone in need no matter how they identify themselves or where they come from.
“Jesus was one who did not just embrace those who went to church but Jesus embraced those who were outsiders of church. That was his ministry,” Goodin said. “He always was looking out for those who were less fortunate and those who were in need. So at St. Paul Baptist Church we module the ministry of Jesus Christ. To those who are in need, those who need help, and those who are broken this is the way. We introduce people to Jesus so that they can go from brokenness to wholeness.”
Goodin’s message during a recent Sunday worship service was one of strength and encouragement.
He asked the congregation to remove any hindrances or distractions. Assuring them that “God will give them strength to get through any challenge that they’re facing.
“Ultimately I think that this coronavirus outbreak forced us to transition,” Goodin said.
Throughout the pandemic the church has been mostly worshipping online but had recently gathered both in person and virtually.
“Even though we are socially distanced we’re still gathered together by spirit,” Goodin said. “We are very big on fellowship and use to do a lot of things in person from rehearsals, meetings, bible study, breaking bread after service, and so those things we had to transition from being in person to being virtual, which was challenging.
“We were already streaming on Facebook and on YouTube for Sunday worship. We added Instagram to our streaming platform after the pandemic had began because we wanted to make sure that we were reaching every audience and every demographic that we can possibly reach. The pandemic slowed down some outreach efforts like the feeding program and fellowship with our sister churches but it has not put a pause on our spiritual engagement.”
If fact, according to Goodin, they’ve experienced an increase in Bible study and overall attendance.
“We’re reaching more people virtually than we had coming into the sanctuary on Sundays and so the pandemic may have that affect on us in terms of our fellowship but in all of the other areas we found that we were still blossoming and growing as a congregation,” Goodin said. “Even in our finances God has blessed us to not lack anything. We haven’t had to lay off staff and we still have been able to take care of our responsibilities.”
Kisha Vaughn have been attending the St. Paul Baptist Church for three years now. “ I was transitioning from my home church because my pastor had left and I started visiting other churches in the neighborhood,” Vaughn said. “What attracted me was the warmth that I felt when I entered the church and how welcoming they people are. What keeps me engaged is watching the pastor and witnessing how God is using him to lead us.”
The church is known to be big on hospitality and family. Goodin hopes that this pandemic not only brings the church family closer but all families around the world.
“Physical presence in a building or the lack of physical presence in a building does not disable or cancel or ability to still grow in God,” Goodin said. “God is calling us to prioritize our relationship and our development with the creator. And not be so conditioned to a physical building and the work inside the building because actually the work can still be done even when we can’t come to the physical building.
“Trusting God is what will help us to continue to get to where are and it has brought us this far throughout this pandemic.”