Ten years ago, Sam Perez was searching for something more evangelical than his Pentecostal tradition. Passing through broadly evangelical and then Reformed Baptist churches, he found his ecclesiastical home at Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship in New York City.
“Listening to Christian radio everyday, I came across a gruffy, deep, booming voice that was preaching in a way I’d never heard before. ‘This is great,’ I thought. ‘And this church is in New York, to boot!’ My good friend Danny Bernard [now an elder at Messiah’s] and I visited, and we knew we were home since that first time.”
On May 24, 2013, Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship ordained Sam Perez as a minister to plant a United Reformed Church in Jersey City. About 150 people from regional URCs attended the service, held at the church facility in Manhattan’s “Hell’s Kitchen” where Messiah’s meets on Sundays.
Rev. Paul Murphy, Sam’s mentor and spiritual father, officiated the service and gave the charge to the congregation. Rev. William Boekestein, who had grown close to Sam since his missions trip to NYC in 2004, gave the charge to the minister. Rev. Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia preached from Colossians 1:3-8 on “The joy and power of the Gospel.”
“Dr. Trueman taught me various courses on church history (I sat under him for four courses),” explains Rev. Perez. “He embodied the best kind of Reformed scholarship and clear thinking on historical Reformational matters. While he was Academic Dean at Westminster, he hosted a weekly forum with students called ‘Deans and Donuts’ which I regularly frequented.”
A 2012 graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, Rev. Perez and his wife, Emily, have been living in Jersey City for the past year where he has been working as a ministerial intern for Messiah’s. They have a son, Adam David, and expect a second child in September. In his capacity as an ordained minister, Rev. Perez will continue and expand his work there.
“My responsibilities, generally speaking, will be to shepherd the core group of about 30 people into a church through weekly Sunday worship, fellowship, corporate prayer, catechetical instruction, and visitations,” he says. “Additionally, I meet with Christians in Jersey City who are struggling with various issues and/or are interested in joining a healthy church. Essentially, discipleship for those inside and outside the core. This summer, we’ll be doing focused evangelism in Jersey City, too.”
Sam is convinced that the power of the Gospel is indestructible: “Can the Gospel change lives? Indeed, we confess nothing else. Can the power of the Gospel change lives in deeply broken areas like Jersey City? Absolutely! This is my hope and this is my confidence: that God raises sinners from the dead and that His Word never returns void but accomplishes His purposes.”
Rev. Perez is eager to visit churches and speak about the work in Jersey City: “More than this, I extend an open invitation for any church or interested member to visit Jersey City and see first-hand this URC mission. Our vision and hope at Messiah’s is to see the glory of God cover the eastern seaboard of the United States, especially in major metropolitan areas, through confessionally Reformed churches that are faithful to His Word. May God bring this to pass!”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 7 & 11 of the June 12, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.