Every week, in an art studio just across the parking lot from one of the country’s best known breweries, a group of over 40 women, men, girls and boys from different backgrounds meet to worship God. Leading the group is pastor Logan Keck.
Before Logan Keck planted a church in JP/Roxbury, he worshipped and served in several Christ the King congregations. While attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Logan met Melissa and within 11 months the two were married. Despite feeling certain that he would never do urban ministry, the couple moved to Dorchester in 2007 where Logan spent the following four years in various roles at CTK Dorchester, including Assistant Pastor.
“We went to Dorchester with a strong vision, good theology, and thinking, “We’ll be a blessing to this community because they need Jesus!,” Logan reflected, “but by the time we left our whole perspective had changed. I learned a lot more from that community than I ever had to offer. God used those years to open my eyes to wrong ideas, cultural assumptions, and insensitivities (or over-sensitivities). He taught me about his mission for our city, showed me the value of a multi-ethnic church, and the need to constantly challenge our personal preferences for worship.”
In 2012, the Kecks moved to Egleston Square to begin planting Christ the King (CTK) - JP/Roxbury. Logan shared about their start in the neighborhood, “We knew it was a unique area with different cultural boundaries and people, and we wanted a core group that reflected the community. Our only strategy was to get to know people who live and work in the area.”
During their first year of church planting, Logan and Melissa did establish many friendships, but they were discouraged by the lack of traction in building a church community. Of the fewer than five people serving alongside them. Logan explained, “It is a difficult strategy to start a church. There was a real tension of our new non-believing friends willing to visit but unable to help start a church and the amount of work that goes into creating a place where they can connect.”
One couple in particular, Charles and Kathryn Baldanza, shared the Kecks' passion for JP/Roxbury and brought energy and ministry experience. They helped each other persist to trust God on their hardest days, and he provided. Within a couple months, the core group had solid attenders, and the church was ready to launch weekly services. "In Mark 6:7, Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs. We need others alongside us in ministry," Logan shared, "I often say that people may visit the church after meeting me in a coffee shop, but they stay because of the friendship they find in the Baldanza household. They are crucial to our work here."
As the group learned more about the area, it became clear that the initial placeholder name of “CTK JP/Roxbury” would remain. “JP and Roxbury have distinct identities, but there’s this place where we are that isn’t really either it’s kind of both.” Logan explained, “When we were trying to figure out what to call our church we couldn’t pick between JP and Roxbury. I couldn’t think of anything better than CTK JP-slash-Roxbury – it’s a terrible name, it’s too long and has a terrible URL – and I figured we could change it later. I have since discovered most organizations are named the same way, and it’s actually the right name for us.”
In the 1960’s, city officials revealed the Inner Loop and Southwest Corridor project with plans to build a super highway connecting I-95 and I-93. The highway would follow along Washington Street right through the JP/Roxbury area. They soon began relocating residents, closing businesses, and demolishing elevated T stops along the Washington Street corridor, including in Egleston Square. The community’s response is hailed by many as one of the greatest examples of citizen activism in Boston. They successfully got the project halted in 1972, and the already cleared land developed into what is now the Southwest Corridor Park.
The story of the failed highway project is a great example of the spirit of activism still present today. At nearly every intersection, it is clear that the area is rapidly changing. The change brings opportunity and hope for some and tension and heartache for others. “In planting a church, it is somewhat strategic to go to places that are growing and have new residents coming in who want to connect,” Logan shared, “On the other hand, we want to be a church that is not just a sign of gentrification, like a new building, but a group of people who are investing in the history here, and see the value in those who have called this place home for a lot longer. It will continue to be a struggle for us, but I know it takes time.”
“The neat thing is that nearly every night of the week, if we wanted to, there is a meeting or function being held where you can meet people from the neighborhood who are eager to meet you because, well, it’s their meeting,” Logan said, “Pastor Randy Nabors, from New City Fellowship, talks about finding the gaps in the community and trying to fill them. A lot of times churches come in with things that worked well in other places, but they might already be doing those well. Our size limits us from trying to offer programs that would likely be deficient and built more on promise than a real ability to help.”
About half the announcements made at the end of each Sunday service are about community meetings and events and ways to get involved. Logan deliberately tries to limit weekly evening church activities to community group gatherings, “If we tell people to love their neighbors and engage in the community, we can’t have church taking up all of their free time.”
They admittedly have a lot to learn, but are greatly encouraged by what God has already done and the hope of what he promises to do for his people. Please pray the residents of JP/Roxbury would know the love of Jesus. And pray that as the church continues to grow, it would honor the rich local history and increasingly reflect the diverse community in which they live.
Come and see what CTK JP/Roxbury is all about on Sundays at 10:30am in the Sam Adams Brewery complex near the Stony Brook T stop on the Orange Line at 284 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.