Our Story

The story of the Upper Room begins with prayer.

In the fall of 2007, Mike Gehrling and Chris Brown, two Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students, began praying together to discern whether God was calling them to start a new church together.

Soon, they were walking through different neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, praying for God to show them where this new church would be.

One snowy morning, God led them to Squirrel Hill. This multicultural and well-educated neighborhood had few churches, but much potential. Though Squirrel Hill is known for its large Jewish population, Chris and Mike discovered that forty percent of the neighborhood had no connection to any religious community whatsoever.

Sensing that God was giving them a vision for a new church in Squirrel Hill, Mike and Chris began talking to leaders in the Presbyterian Church, who eagerly supported the Upper Room as a new Presbyterian church.

In September 2008, a “seed group” of eight people began meeting together in the living room of the duplex Chris and his wife Eileen had rented in Squirrel Hill.

After three months of Bible study and book study together, the group began hosting worship services in the living room. By April, they were outgrowing the house.

In November of 2009, the growing community moved to the storefront at 5828 Forward Ave.

In the meantime, Chris and Mike both began serving half-time as pastors of the young congregation. Seeking to build relationships with the neighborhood, Mike also worked in graduate student ministry at Carnegie Mellon, and Chris took a job as a barista at the 61C Café.

As The Upper Room has grown together for over five years, we’ve tried to maintain the intimacy we had when we started meeting in a living room. Meals in homes and in the restaurants and cafés of Squirrel Hill have played a significant role in building community at the Upper Room.

But the meal we share in worship each Sunday is even more important. Through Communion, we grow in our relationship with and connection to Jesus Christ, and we receive strength from Christ to go forward in his mission.

As Christ sends us out into the world, we believe he calls us to build relationships with people different from ourselves, crossing cultural, racial, and economic barriers in order to welcome more people into God’s family.

Our community is growing in many ways now: We’ve recently expanded our space into part of the old Squirrel Hill movie theater, making room for more people to join us around the table in worship, and providing more space to welcome and nurture children.

More importantly, we continue to grow in prayer, worshipping in new and deeper ways as we pursue Christ together. In all of this, we trust that God is faithful to complete the good work that he’s begun in us, and we look forward to seeing where the Lord will lead us.

We hope you’ll join us, and be a part of the next chapter in the Upper Room’s story.