CITY TO CITY NYC Blog

A New Church in Yonkers

Before I did a residency at a church in Harlem and started getting involved at CTC, I would have thought starting a church was about getting people to lead a service and hoping people would come. But now I see this is just 10% of church planting.”

Kevin Middleton was born and raised in Mt. Vernon, just down the street from Yonkers where he is currently starting Acts Church. Yonkers is the largest city in Westchester County and is one of the oldest cities in the country. Sitting right between NYC and Westchester, Yonkers draws many different types of people and cultures. “When I think of Yonkers, three words come to mind: resilient, diverse, and flourishing. Why? The fact that it’s still here is the result of its resilience.” 

“Everyone was saying not to plant here. It is so distressed – the gang violence, terrible school systems…” However Kevin and his wife Dominique heard this and both said, “That’s probably where we need to be.”

Kevin, Dominique and their core group have been meeting together since October of 2021. However, they have only just recently started services. The first year of Acts Church was spent out in the community. 

“Some people have asked why we waited [to start services]. But the reality is we have been doing Jesus’ work for a long time–without having services. This is a testament to CTC. Before this program, I would have thought starting a church was getting people to lead a service and hoping people come. But now I know this is just 10% of church planting.”

Kevin shared what he is seeing and learning as he plants Acts church.

What are the people like in Yonkers?

In my opinion, very hard-working. There is a huge value on work and making it out here on these streets. The New Yorker in Yonkers is slightly progressive but at the same time conservative. They are culturally in tune and awake to the needs in the community. And they are eager to meet those needs. The majority of Yonkers is white. Right underneath that is African American and then under that is a mix of everyone else with a large Latinx community. There is both high middle-class and low working-class. Yonkers is very socio-economically and culturally diverse. 

How is your ministry unique? 

One thing we are doing differently as a church is that we are first starting with the needs of the community instead of starting with our personal preferences for how church should look. We see that loneliness is one of the biggest issues in our city right now, especially for people of color. So, one thing that we are really big on is community. We make it our business to have dinner parties and gatherings that connect people to each other and remind us that we are not alone and that life is a group project. We want to be in each other’s homes, real family-style. In our worship services, we want them to be warm and inviting – come as you are and wear what you wear. We are trying to ask the questions – What are people looking for? What do they need?

What are some of the needs you see in the community?

Yonkers has an incredible housing issue. This is partially because of how the city was designed so homelessness is a huge issue. Mental health, particularly after the pandemic, has been a big issue too. Food insecurity – not just in terms of adults, but with children also. These are all linked to economics and race. We are trying to be incarnational in these spaces. 

We see a lot of injustice and people wrestling with the injustice in our country. People are asking what the church is going to do. A lot of people are asking what we are going to do about injustice, specifically black bodies and bodies of color being killed by law enforcement. And around the needs locally in our community, people are asking – what is the church going to do?

We believe the Gospel addresses these things. The mission of our church is to continue the story of Jesus. We believe that Jesus – and a major part of His ministry –  was being a prophet and prophesying to leaders and those in power and demanding justice while also encouraging mercy. Our church has sought to answer this through mercy and justice initiatives, whether that be through Clean Slate, participating in law enforcement events, or collaborating with teams in the city who help resolve food insecurity. We want to partner with organizations that are already doing good work so we can show that Jesus cares about this – and so do we.

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