This blog was started to record the journey of starting a new kind of church for the NYC artistic community (which includes anyone who loves the arts - many non-artists), and to be a place for discussion of Art & Faith issues.
Well, we have reached a major milestone - our first full Sunday worship gathering.
Just to let you know, we didn't choose Sunday morning for traditional reasons - we were desiring to find the best time, whether on Saturday, Sunday or Friday, to have a weekend gathering with a full worship liturgy. It turns out after talking to a lot of people and doing a poll, for our demographic - people in the NYC artistic community, that Sunday morning is the one time that everyone is available. Many have shows on Sat. night, rehearsals on Sat. afternoon, and either shows or dates on Friday night.
So for me, this has been a two and a half year journey, for the team a nine month or so journey, and there is a great sense of joy, excitement and relief.
We were humming along on Thursdays, slowly adding elements and refining others, and in December we had abandoned our previous plan to start Sundays on a pre-set date, and go instead in a more organic way - when we were ready and the Lord led us, we would go to Sundays.
So, it was only 3-4 weeks ago that it all lined up and we prayerfully decided to move to Sundays. It has been a whirlwind to do it so quickly, but that suited us well.
We had a weekend retreat the weekend before to pray and plan, and there we came up with a final amazing actual layout of the gathering. Then the whole week leading up we had a number of meetings and work times to prepare - I was exhausted by Saturday night, but amazingly peaceful and rested on the Easter morning of the gathering.
Everything went so well, and we were all amazed at how all these disparate parts came together, and how our giftings melded so well, and out of all that came this beautiful space and worshipful gathering. I've written a description of the gathering below.
One thing I want to highlight in this blog for others church planting or considering it. Prayer has been the key for us, our modus operandi. We never talk and discuss ideas and plans without having prayed first. We want to be in that post-prayer, spirit led, state of mind when we discuss and make decisions about something as important as the body of Christ and how it gathers to worship.
We truly believe that Jesus leads the church, and so we would never presume to think we know what to do without hearing from Him first. After we pray, we trust that he will lead us and we get crazy creative.
It has been so thrilling for me to watch my dream come true - to have artists create an entirely original worship liturgy. The team that God has gathered to do this have just an amazing set of gifts to envision and execute wildly creative original ideas.
So now we look forward to growing and developing as a body of Christ - to love one another as God has loved us, and to draw people to God's love.
Here's a description of our inaugural Sunday worship gathering:
As for our first Sunday gathering, wow, what an amazing day it was. We transformed this room we have here in the Lamb's theater - ceiling drapes billowing out in all directions. Japanese rice paper lamps, many candles.
In the beginning, we had everyone outside, and the team stood in a circle around the chairs, which were in an oval circle, and we hummed a tune of greeting while the people came in and each received a flower, and then joined with our simple hum to continue greeting the rest coming in, all accompanied by jembe drum and guitar.
After everyone was in and we had transformed the humming to singing words to the same melody, and after a brief welcome and opening prayer, we had the jembe play while an original poem written for the service was proclaimed. When the poem was halfway through an amazing young dancer came out and danced sometimes following and sometimes leading the jembe, this culminated in an exciting flourish of sound and movement that really must have thrilled the heart of our Lord.
Then we took our first small steps towards congregational harmony and taught everyone some simple harmonies that undergirded a solo sung melody, and this will be developed with increasing complexity over time.
Then one of the members of our congregation that has been blossoming before everyone's eyes over recent months, shared her testimony of dramatic and brutal sexual and ritual abuse as a child, and then presented to us a beautiful sculpture of a tree with leaves made out of little origami's that represented her journey from horror to the Lord's sweet and ongoing redemption of her heart and mind. It will be a permanent part of our worship space.
As we were all deeply moved by her story, and the beauty of the sculpture, we followed that by a moment of silent prayer and reflection. And out of that silence came the piercingly beautiful soprano voice of an opera singer, joined soon by a tenor singing a gorgeous duet in Hebrew.
Then some more worship singing by the congregation (with congregational harmony) and a short talk on our hopes for Communion of the Arts which flowed naturally into remembering our Lord with the sacrament of communion. For this we had three stations set up, and we gathered around them like a family meal and all greeted one another. After reading the scripture, we each in our time took some of the bread dipped it in the wine and ate.
Then another song in harmony, and for the scripture text, an actor dramatically spoke the text from memory.
Then I came to give a brief overview of the scripture text, before going to our small groups to spend time getting to know one another, and teach one another the scripture.
At the end we all came back for the artShare - a chance to experience the art of someone we know whether Christian or not, and some announcements and closing prayer.
Thank you all for your prayers, it was a wonderful time and we are looking forward to it's ongoing development and to growing closer as a community.