In June, 1987, Revs. Manuel Ortiz and Randy Baker and their families moved to Philadelphia from Chicago where they had been part of a team which planted five churches, two Christian elementary schools, an apprenticeship school for emerging leaders, and a family center. After visiting churches in Philadelphia for a while, the two families began having home Bible studies on Sunday mornings starting in January, 1988. These studies soon grew into the beginning of a multi-ethnic, youth-oriented, inner-city ministry and in 1989 Spirit and Truth Fellowship (STF) was incorporated as part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America denomination. In 1992, STF’s outreach ministry, Ayuda Community Center, was incorporated as an autonomous holistic outreach arm of the church. The initial focus of STF was to work with seminarians to provide leadership for this fledgling ministry, but by the summer of 1994 it became apparent that the Lord was asking the Revs. Ortiz and Baker to take on this responsibility themselves. Much of the church’s young adult leadership emerged from the original high school youth group. These men and women have grown in their commitment to the church and its community, especially in continuing the cycle of working with young people and identifying emerging leadership for now and for the future.
In September 1996 Spirit and Truth Fellowship moved to its current location in the East Hunting Park community of North Philadelphia with approximately 25 core members. We tend to think of this date as the beginning of the church as it now is. In September, 1999, Hunting Park Christian Academy was begun in the church, and it now services approximately 200 children in Pre-K through 8th grade. In October, 1999, the church became “organized” as a CRCNA church with four elders and six deacons. The church has grown its elder board and deacon board through embracing training elders and deacons who, with the approval of the elder board and the trainee, are be presented to the congregation for ordination/installation. New elders and deacons are usually needed as current officers are sent out in church plants.
Spirit and Truth has a missional, mercy-minded, and parish focus, and it developed a church planting movement around those themes. The first church planted was Germantown Hope Community Church in April 2002. This was followed in July 2005 by African Christian Ministry and By Grace Alone in November 2005. In November 2007 8th Street Community church was launched, followed by Mt. Airy Community Church in April 2009, One Hope Community Church in August 2009 and Grace and Peace Community Fellowship in July 2010. Besides the seven church plants, Spirit and Truth began a Spanish-speaking service in July 2009 (still a part of STF) and a house church in May 2010 which was sent out as a church plant in August 2012. In 2015 a small group was sent out to potentially be a church plant in a nearby suburb. Also in 2015 five of the emerging churches–Mt. Airy Community Church, One Hope Community Church, By Grace Alone Frankford Fellowship, Grace and Peace Community Fellowship, and Eighth Street Community Church—were accepted at classis to be organized churches within the CRC.
For a list of all elders with pictures, bios, and email addresses as well as a list of our deacons, please click here.
Our Denomination and Governance
Spirit and Truth Fellowship (STF) is part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) denomination. The CRC is a confessional denomination basing its faith, teaching, and preaching on the solid, biblical, and Reformed confessions of the 16th century. Although these confessions were relevant and helpful during that century, the denomination deemed it appropriate to restate its faith in twentieth-century language and approved “Our World Belongs to God” as a contemporary testimony.
For the full testimony, please see Our World Belongs To God.
As a CRC church, STF is governed and led by a consistory of elders. Elders have two primary roles. The first is the spiritual oversight of the church which includes caring for the spiritual needs of individuals and families, teaching and preaching, and reviewing all of the church’s ministries to ensure they are spiritually edifying and maintain relevance within the church’s mission statement and core values. The second role is that of ruling or leading the church. All major church decisions are made by the elders; however, the election of new elders and deacons, approval of the annual budget, and major acquisitions or sales are brought to the full membership for a vote. Deacons have the major responsibilities of caring for the physical needs of the body and, to a lesser degree, the community, caring for the facilities, and having certain responsibilities in worship services. Both elders and deacons are responsible for visiting and calling on members and non-member congregants.