Paul Manansala dreams of a church at the heart of Jersey City’s bustling intersections, where people from all walks of life come together to discover God’s love.
This December, he’ll launch Crossroad Community Church in the city’s West Side – a passion project God has been leading him to his whole life.
Paul grew up in a church in Jersey City, one of many that his father helped launch.
“Whenever we would drive past places, it was just in him,” he explained. “He’d say, ‘Oh, look, there’s a mall closing down. It’d be a great spot for a church plant.’ ”
Years later, Paul was working with high school and college students at a church his father started in Garfield. When one of the services became full, he launched his own.
That experience, he said, and watching his father’s enthusiasm over the years, inspired him and his wife to start dreaming about church planting in Jersey City. A friend pointed them to Hoboken Grace, and they started attending in 2012.
“I chased Chris down in between services, and just asked him, ‘Are you guys interested in Jersey City at all?’ ” Paul said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, we’re actually planting the Hamilton Park location in about four months.”
The conversation changed their lives dramatically. They got more involved with the church, moved and joined the Hamilton Park launch team. And soon after, Paul was admitted to a fellows program with Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian.
The program required full-time ministry, so Paul decided to quit his IT job.
“We knew we couldn’t miss this opportunity,” he said. “It’s one of the best urban church-planting leadership development programs out there.”
In addition to having classes with Tim Keller, Paul and the other fellows have learned from each other. A church planter from an equally diverse neighborhood in Queens, for example, encouraged Paul to start connecting the people in his community through service projects. The program wrapped up three weeks ago, but Paul will start another development program at Redeemer, “Incubator,” in the fall.
He also became a church plant intern at Hoboken Grace, learning from the rest of the staff and the speaking team.
“Seeing the Hamilton Park location launch this year into Downtown Community Church, and Wayne being a great friend – it’s been very beneficial to see someone do it before me, just to see what the process looks like,” he said.
His own church, Crossroad, will start with preview services in December, and an official launch on Easter. It will serve several parts of the city, including McGinley Square, Lincoln Park, Bergen-Lafayette and some of Journal Square.
“Jersey City is a crossroads of all different types of people, especially in our neighborhood. We were looking at the demographics, and it’s ridiculously diverse,” he said. “The pie graph is completely equal divided between all different types of people. But also, when it comes to socioeconomic status, even within the same cultures … it’s all over the map.”
Paul’s wife grew up in the area, and the couple moved there in December. He’s been meeting as many people as he can, and laying the foundation of his church by connecting those people through meetings and community service events with groups such as the New City Kids.
“We want to be able to meet people where they’re at, which a lot of the time with people in our neighborhood is a lot of instability, a lot of question marks, and dealing with different crossroads with their family and all that,” he said. “So we want to meet them there and lead them to the love of God that we’ve experienced.”
Residents and entrepreneurs have flocked to Jersey City in the past few years, and now churches are needed more than ever, Paul explained. Working with Hoboken Grace’s Hamilton Park location has shown him that God is already doing something there.
“There are amazing people in the city,” he said, “and it seems like God is starting something.”