Most of you who know us personally have probably come to notice that we Jordan’s seem to really like Jesus. Like really, really. We don’t often (or try not to at least) proclaim it bombastically, because we both would never consider ourselves good enough exemplars of Christ like living, but yet our heart for the church is ceaseless and undeniable. We both grew up in church -mine small and personal and Jay’s a little bigger, and a little louder. Our friendship took root in our small school, Pacific Christian and our dating relationship was strengthened through commitments to youth group, sunday school and community ministries. Throughout we have imperfectly striven to consider God in all that we do, decide and act in, and also to plant roots in a community that bolsters us to walk out this mindset.
[A brief explanatory anecdotal aside] My first realization of Jay’s intentions was at church. We both attended a Pentecostal United youth group service at his home church Glad Tidings. After the service, like all good high school students, I unwound at McDonalds with friends, and who should stride through the door feigning hunger but Jay. He had driven thrifty five minutes past a handful of McDonalds’, multiple alternative eateries and his own house to wind up at the same location as I was. We laugh about it now because he claims he was already all in, while I wasn’t even playing the same game. I can’t recall but knowing high school me I was probably interested in someone else at the time, but I do remember being struck by just how different this boy was and that for him this was more than a friendship. His small, boyish act had made me feel special in a way no other man ever had or has since. Don’t get too excited though, I still made him wait another four years before I conceded to a date. Obviously, I had to make sure he was in for the long haul.
Okay, back to the topic at hand -church hunting. Throughout our marriage we have been in a constant search for a church that fulfills both our needs -and upon arriving in New York this search continues on a much grander scale because the options here are limitless (albeit at times overwhelming to wade through). Both of us are striving to find a place that is God focused, but beyond that is where Jay and I begin to differ in need.
I am constantly searching for community, and fervently feel that people and relationship are the pulse of the church. My childhood congregation was one that does fellowship so, so well. The Church of Christ has such a heart for it’s members that love oozes from each congregant in the form of unparalleled encouragement, warm hugs and baked goods during any trial or transiton. It is something you have to experience to truly understand. In my adolescence my best friend, Sarah (miss you), wrangled me onto a city bus and brought me to her youth group. As youth we spent Friday nights there, followed by a sleepover at my house that bled late into Saturday afternoons, and as university students did the same just as leaders rather than youth. Through sharing life with the amazing young adults in that church, and as we truly invested in one another with a whole heart I developed friendships that neither time, distance nor hardship have been able to weaken. So for me that is what I crave in a church -people.
For Jay, he craves the intellectual. He wants a sermon to challenge and grow him. At Church of Christ we had pastor Martin, who did just that. Jay still craves listening to his podcasts and when he left to return to his family in the Southern states Jay felt something vital had left with him. He yearns for that theological complexity that forces you to retreat from the service with a buzzing mind that is striving for something better. Also, being a drummer the whole music component is a pretty strong consideration for him. So that leaves us searching for a church that excels in community, breath of preaching and powerful worship. Below encapsulates our exploration of the houses of God in this great city so far -all of which are very large, and very on fire.
1. Riverside Church
Riverside is a stunning, breathtaking architectural marvel and their service parallels these same awe inspiring elements. My first service here lined my eyelids with tears at the sheer eloquence and reverence in which this non-denominational service is conducted. Furthermore, Jay got his academic fixation in a way I don’t think either of us has experianced previously. Riverside has close ties with Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary, and all their pastors seem to have Dr. Rev. before their names. These are men and women are so wholly committed to seeking Christ that they just can’t quit going to school to learn more and in the process add more letter before and after their name. On an additional and practical level, we live on Seminary Row so this church happens to be a block from our apartment. This makes soaking in those few extra minutes of sleep on a Sunday morning a little more doable.
2. Hillsong NYC
Hillsong NYC is part of an international body of churches (and bible colleges just to spice up the mix). We have had multiple friends attend their college in Australia and when we mentioned our relocation to NYC they prodded us to seek out this church. It is a new church, and is also nothing short of amazing. It is a stark contrast to Riverside, they hold multiple services on a Sunday in the heart of a Lower East Side bar. The congregation consists mostly of young adults, and the service is a vivacious, vocal one that is sure to get your heart pumping. But don’t be put off my the age demographic of the line up outside (yes people line up for church. They want to be there that bad) because we took my mom and she loved it. The music is also without exception, and more than met our need in the praise arena. Although, this was to be expected, as I only (yeah I know I am not cool) have their music loaded onto my iPhone.
3. Transitions Ministry at Brooklyn Tabernacle
This is where my craving for community was met. It felt fittingly good to spend another Friday night back in church at the Brooklyn Tabernacle Revival, in a building that rivals Riverside in beauty. Ironically, I think what made this night so fulfilling, aside from the hair raising talent on part of choir-eqse worship leaders, was the remarkable, beautiful girls I went with. They are not tied this or any church; I see them outside of church, and one of them Jay and I have known for a number of years. However, being able to share time with them in this setting and connect in meaningful conversation is what I savored most about the night. The message was for restoration in old relationships which is close to my heart, but also for the forging of new relationships, which is exactly what we were doing. So that being said, we are all going again next week and this time taking Jay along.