Photo Caption: The former Adventist Book Center is the location for the new Bryant Park Life Hope Center. [Photo: Greater New York Conference. Used with permission. Photographer: Josue Alberto]
Bryant Park Life Hope Center, a three-story building in midtown Manhattan, New York, is situated at one of the world’s densely populated and influential crossroads. Flanked by a tower with more than 40 stories of luxury condos, hotel rooms, shopping, and surrounded by glass and steel skyscrapers (whose air space above even commands a hefty price), this property is in a powerful location. Bryant Park Life Hope Center is poised to share hope, wholeness, and the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 with the more than 12 million people who visit the area every year (www.bryantpark.org, accessed on October 20, 2021).
To help respond to this opportunity and maximize their ministry potential, Bryant Park Life Hope Center, operated by the Greater New York Conference (GYNC), received an operating grant from the General Conference Global Mission office, designated to support start-up Urban Centers of Influence (UCI) in unreached cities or regions with more than 100,000 people. This grant will support a renewed vision for the Bryant Park location, which housed the Adventist Book Center until 2019.
“This funding will definitely impact our members, but also our friends [in the community],” said Henry Beras, GYNC president, explaining that evangelism isn’t just preaching. “Now, to get people to go to church, the first thing you have to do is to show them that you love them, then to show that you have something different than other churches. This money will definitely impact our evangelism program . . . in the Center of Influence in Bryant Park.”
With these plans, the world church’s Mission to the Cities Initiative and I Will Go strategic plans are on the move! It calls all Adventists “to engage the collective resources of the global church in establishing [or increasing] a Seventh-day Adventist presence and needs-based ministry in cities of one million,” (www.missiontothecities.org/assets/public/files/pdf/It’s%20Time%20Document.pdf, p. 2, accessed on October 25, 2021) and to operate at least one center of influence in each urban area with one million people or more (www.iwillgo2020.org/kpis/?_ministries+mission-to-the-cities, p. 4, accessed on October 25, 2021).
“GNYC will use this resource pragmatically to jumpstart the UCI financially,” says Bledi Leno, GYNC multi-ethnic ministries director and supervisor of the Center. But on a deeper, more far-reaching level, Leno adds, “we want it to inspire people locally to do more and apply themselves to urban ministries.”
The application process for the funding is designed to help create a UCI that is supported across the bandwidth of the church, from all tiers of church administration to business professionals and lay members. “In distributing the funding, the GC partners with the division, union, and local conference, who each has a voted allocation of financial support,” explained E. Douglas Venn, director of the GC Global Mission Urban Center and Urban Centers of Influence. “Working with this Life Hope Center Committee, business professionals reviewed the proposal, including consultation with Kevin Jackson, CEO of Australia-based Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing, who shares valuable experiences of running urban centers of influence. The Life Hope Center also has an operating board comprised of Adventist business leaders who oversee the business operations of this UCI. The ultimate goal of the UCI is to be financially self-sustaining, ensuring its long-term ability to serve the city using Christ’s method alone.”
Support from lay members is also beginning to arrive. An anonymous Adventist donor has given funds for remodeling the building, which has not seen updates since the 1980s. The GYNC continues to raise additional funds for the needed building renovations, capital improvements, and equipment not covered by the GC funding.
Plans for the Life Hope Center include partnering with area professionals to create a health and preventive lifestyle center and a mental health institute. A pop-up vegan café that will also organize plant-based cooking classes is also in the future, and a physical training and exercise center offering massage and simple hydrotherapy. The area will also include space to share literature and sell some best-selling Adventist titles.
Working in harmony with the Bryant Park Life Hope Center launch is GYNC pastor Wayne Jamel, with a team of young professionals. They are planting a church using the building as their meeting place and a springboard into the community. “This [funding] gives us the confidence to move forward with our plans,” Jamel says. He is grateful for the support and looks forward to what God will do as church members combine their efforts with pastoral, conference, and General Conference leadership.
Are you interested in learning more about Urban Centers of Influence like the Bryant Park Life Hope Center? Do you want to know how you can be part of the Mission to the Cities Initiative? Visit www.UrbanCenters.org and www.MissiontotheCities.org for more information.