Sunnyside Skate Church, Chicago 1991

by | Jul 25, 2019 | About Phillip Telfer, Blog, Ministry

I wish I had a copy of this original picture, all I have is a poor photocopy that was recently found folded up in a box of miscellaneous items. On the first row you can find a picture of Phillip Telfer at the age of 18. My wife Mary is also in this picture (this was taken before we were married). I had moved to Chicago from my home state of Oregon to work with an inner-city church. I helped the youth pastor, Dirk Currier, launch an outreach to skateboarders. We built a small skate park in the basement of the church.  At the time, it was the only public skate park in the city of Chicago so we didn’t have to beg any skaters to come to church. We passed out a few flyers at some local skate shops and within months we were hosting over a hundred skateboarders packed into our little basement skate church. We called it Sunnyside Skate Church because the cross streets of the church, Sunnyside and Paulina. The skaters were required to attend a short church service where we presented the gospel each week.

My background with riding freestyle bmx and skateboarding gave me a opportunity to connect with so many young people in Chicago that I would have otherwise not crossed paths with. I still ride freestyle on occasion, the most recent at our church 4th of July picnic. I don’t have the stamina I had over 30 years ago when I started riding but I’m glad a can still “bust a move” or two. The picture below is me riding circa 1990 in Corvallis, OR.

Sunnyside Skate Church would not be the last skate ministry I became involved in. I moved out of Chicago to the small town of Mt. Carroll, IL in 1998 and served as a youth pastor for several years at a local church. I built a skatepark in the church parking lot. I remember a church board member asking me how many skaters I thought there were in a small town of only 1700 people. My reply, “I don’t know but I guarantee that everyone of them will be coming to our church.” I was right. I wouldn’t trade those amazing years for anything. One of those young punk skaters was a Jr. High student, Rhett Simkins. Rhett is a pastor now in Mt. Carroll and is my office director for the ministry Media Talk 101. Our youth group didn’t just attract skateboarders because the skateboarders attracted spectators and we experienced an unusual momentum that resulted in a youth group of up to 80 students attending our Wednesday evening youth service. When I began to keep track of attendance I was shocked to discover that we actually had around 120 students in our youth ministry over the course of a month of meetings, they just didn’t show up all at once. Whatever your unique interests and talents are, they can be used for Christ and His kingdom. 

Who is Phillip Telfer? What is the core of my identity? I’m a child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ. What you do is not as important as who you are. But in case you’re wondering about what I do, here you go…

Husband & Father: Mary and I have been married for 32 years and blessed with 4 children, one fantastic son-in-law, and three precious grandchildren.

Minister: I serve as a pastor by day (and night) and I’m the founder and director of the nonprofit ministry Media Talk 101

Coffee Nut: When I’m not serving the flock, I’m serving good, home roasted coffee to family and friends.

Woodworker: Another hobby that has “turned” into a small family business is woodturning. Working with wood a little bit each week keeps me sane in this big world of personalities.

Film Festival Director: Since that didn’t seem like enough on my plate I also started the annual Christian Worldview Film Festival and Filmmakers Guild.

Author: When there’s time to spare, I love to take  a Pilot G2 gel pen and a pad of paper and write! I used to pour a lot of creative writing energy into music, and now that has shifted to the fun of writing a novel.

Musician: I got my start in ministry as a singer/songwriter. It’s been over a decade since I last recorded any music but be on the lookout for new music in 2023 on your favorite streaming service.