In Delco, a pretty church with busy people

Media Presbyterian is a sort of Christian middle ground, says Rev. Stu Ritter interim pastor. But if you're interested in joinging, be prepared to work. The church supports "missionary" projects from Chester to sub-Saharan Africa.
Media Presbyterian is a sort of Christian middle ground, says Rev. Stu Ritter interim pastor. But if you're interested in joinging, be prepared to work. The church supports "missionary" projects from Chester to sub-Saharan Africa.
Posted: March 03, 2014

THE CHURCH is located smack dab in the middle of Delaware County, in Media Borough, the county seat known as "Everybody's Hometown." So perhaps it's appropriate that Media Presbyterian Church attracts members who were raised in different faith traditions.

"We seem to be viewed by a lot of people as a happy medium, between the liturgical, ritualistic religion found in, say, the Roman Catholic Church, to the nondenominational churches at the other end of the spectrum," said the Rev. Stu Ritter, interim pastor of the 164-year-old church. "We're somewhere in between. That seems to appeal to a lot of people."

For instance, if a Baptist woman marries a Catholic man, the Presbyterian faith might serve as middle ground, Ritter said.

They better prepare to work, though. Media Presbyterian, with an estimated 700 to 750 active members, is an exceptionally hands-on congregation, tackling community projects here and abroad.

"This one ranks at the top of the list in terms of real involvement and engagement in the community and the world," said Ritter, who's in a position to know, having served as an interim pastor in seven states over the last 15 years.

Who we are: Media Presbyterian defies the "frozen chosen image of our denominational ancestors" through a commitment to community service, international missions and youth opportunities, Ritter said.

Where we worship: Sunday worship is in the historic building (the original portion, built in 1854) at 30 E. Baltimore Ave. in Media. There are two traditional services, at 8:15 a.m. and 11 a.m., and a less formal, more contemporary service featuring the Worship Team (praise band) at 9:30 a.m. The contemporary one is the big draw, probably due to the eclectic band.

"In terms of the style, sometimes there's a little bit of bluegrass to it, or some jazz influences. It's a mix," he said. "It's a much richer blend than the typical parish band."

What we believe: Many members grew up in other faiths, but there are a few basic areas where they agree, Ritter said: "The sovereignty of God (the buck stops with God, who is accountable to no one else), the Lordship of Jesus Christ (we look to him as head of the church and judge of our lives), and God's amazing grace revealed in the life, death, resurrection and continuing presence of the living Christ."

What we're known for: Passive faith? Forget it. This church sends its members into the world to share the gospel and live as "present-day ambassadors for Christ," Ritter said.

Consider the senior craftsmen, a group of retirees who get together every Thursday for service projects, from home improvement projects in Chester to building wheelchair ramps. Sometimes, they split up and tackle three or four different projects. "That's what we think of as local mission, serving the community in a real, direct, hands-on way," Ritter said.

Something that would probably surprise people: Chester is one thing, but Africa?

"From rural North Carolina to sub-Saharan Africa, this congregation has impacted lives and communities in very tangible ways," Ritter said. "Just last month a new medical clinic opened in Ghana, fulfilling a vision launched by members of Media Presbyterian Church."

Big moral issue we're grappling with: Leveraging the brief time they have each week with junior-high and high-school members to prepare them for a lifelong journey of faith.

"How do we raise a new generation of 'apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers,' " Ritter asked, quoting Ephesians, "in the midst of society's pressures to succeed and win?"

If pennies rained from heaven into our facilities budget: A church built in the mid-19th century is expensive to maintain. Equipment always needs replacing. There are close to a dozen different air-conditioning and air-circulation systems. The Property and Technology Committee could find a thousand uses for pennies from heaven, he said.

God is . . . "Our ever-present source of hope, acceptance and unconditional love."

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