So here’s a bit of news for you : I’ve been attending mass for the past few weeks.
While I don’t want to spend this post going into all of the details and defending this new (potential) direction for me, you should know that the parish church that I’ve been attending is, as far as I can tell, everything “church” should be. The sermons are fantastic and rich with scriptural protein, love and hospitality are evident priorities of the parishioners, and the musical worship is led by two jazz musicians (the last bit is merely a bonus–I also love a more traditional service). Moreover, they know how to celebrate—with martini nights every month. It’s the Church of the Ascension, and I absolutely love it.
Rest assured that in the next few months you will hear more than enough about my recent exploration of the Catholic faith. But for now, while I’m stopped at this crossroads, I feel a need to thank the two churches I have been a part of while I’ve been in New York, during my ever-so-formative college years. These houses of worship embody the kind of community that (I think) Christ himself wants for us. Both are vibrantly in love with Jesus, and both are committed to revealing him through love and service to the city.
It’s a rare thing to hear sermons like the ones I heard under the teaching of pastor Tim Keller. With a single metaphor, he would expose the hypocrisy and stinginess of our human hearts and at the same time lift us up to a higher standard. He reminded us over and over that without God’s grace, we can do nothing to help ourselves, but with Jesus, we are new creations entirely.
The church taught me much about generosity. I get frustrated when I ignore a panhandler or disregard a needy friend, but Redeemer reminded me that even our smallest attempts to reach out to a brother or sister please God, and that every day He gives us new grace to begin again. Thank you, Redeemer, for doing the work of justice in the city, for preaching the gospel as I’ve never heard it before, and for following the call to be a light to New York that God has so clearly given to you.
And to Trinity Grace Church:
I originally came to TGC because I had heard there was something different about the community. Sure enough, it was real and genuine, distinct from the canned community-building programs that some churches have a difficult time escaping. From the close ties that are formed on Sundays and in “missional communities,” church members have the resources to step out into their neighborhoods and serve.
I also love the effort that TGC has made to engage with and learn from our culture without loosening its hold on the gospel, which often goes against the grain. We sang old hymns and some original songs, all set to contemporary music, all saturated with meaning and holy scripture and filled with the sounds of joy and desperation that can only come from an earnest seeking of God. I’d say the congregation was slightly more left-leaning than Redeemer’s, but more important than political views was the collective desire to bring God’s kingdom into fullness. Thank you, TGC, for being my church home for the past school year, for showing me a manifestation of a loving church community, and for letting me participate in the songs of the angels.
So what’s next? I hate to switch churches yet again when I’ve been getting settled, but I do feel that Ascension, or more broadly, Catholic mass, is the next step for me. Lest you worry, I’m not making any quick decisions–candidates for confirmation have to go through several months of preparation and learning, anyway. But this post isn’t about that. It’s an acknowledgment of the wonderful communities of people–of all flavors–who are doing the work of Christ in the city. And I hope it’s an encouragement to everyone who is reading this who may not be a part of a church that there is a place for you at the Lord’s table, and that there are communities of believers who do love people the way that Jesus taught us to.