New Haven – home to Yale, Louis’ Lunch (where the hamburger was invented) and Pepe’s Pizza (home of the US Pizza). Amidst such a very prestigious ivy league town there is vast lostness that permeates the city. Yale is found right in the heart of the downtown of New Haven, which makes one think that it would play a very prominent role in the shape and scope of the community. This is quite the contrary. Many we met with talked about how there is a huge disconnect between the city and the college. This stems from the fact that while Yale is a very diverse campus, it is predominantly upper to middle class renowned students. New Haven, on the other hand, is a very fragmented city. While you see a very upscale downtown area, intermingling young professionals with Yale students, just a few blocks away you find homelessness and poverty.
We were able to survey several students on the campus as well as some within the surrounding community. As you move further away from the downtown area you do find more residential areas that have little to no evangelical presence. We talked with Greg Hendrickson, elder at Trinity Baptist, in downtown New Haven. Trinity does have some reach onto the Yale campus, as several grad students attend there. Rebekah was able to speak with a member of Trinity (Joe & Catherine Ross’ daughter-in-law), who said that if you want to plant a church in New Haven, it’s important whether on Yale’s campus or one of the other surrounding campuses, that you must be intentional to have a physical presence on that campus.
During our time over the last two days in New Haven, we also met with Tim Leggett, who is a church planting strategist in CT, as well as Andy Haynes, College Director for the New England Baptist Convention. Both said that CT, particularly both New Haven and Hartford, are in need of more Gospel-centered churches reaching and impacting the community and college campus. Some of the other campuses that don’t have a presence in their community are found in the West Haven and Northwest New Haven area. We drove through the Southern Connecticut State University and Univ. of New Haven areas to find more residential areas where there is no evangelical presence. Both of these areas reminded us a bit more of our make-up in Fayetteville.
Tomorrow we travel to Hartford to meet with two church planters and see downtown Hartford and several surrounding areas where there is no evangelical presence whatsoever. I pray that God might continue to guide our steps and give us discernment as a team, staff and church to know where God would have us bring a vibrant, Gospel witness.
Written by Ryan Martin