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New York City Church Tour

New York City Church Tour

The final stop was my New York City Church Tour. It’s been such a privilege to visit the extended family and learn from what the wider church is doing, just across the pond. In this post, I cover Redeemer and The Journey. Two very different churches but both having a great impact in the city, and wider afield. You can also check out the churches I visited in Atlanta in my previous blog post.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church

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Top of my list to visit while in New York was Redeemer, Tim Kellers church. Not Time Square Church (as I keep hearing in reference to Tim Keller), it does exist, I just can’t see any link with Tim Keller. Redeemer isn’t even in Time Square.

I attended a Faith & Work event during the week at Redeemer’s main offices (see my post on the Extended Family for more details). On Sunday I went along to the 10:30 am service at Hunter College auditorium. The morning services are traditional, which isn’t my preferred service type, but we can always learn from styles we don’t prefer.

On arrival I was handed a service sheet with the bars of music included (in case I brought my recorder from primary school and felt led to join the worship team) and the various responses (liturgy) that were part of the service. Redeemer do have a contemporary service later in the day, but my flight didn’t allow for that. Tim Keller gave a heartfelt exposition on Justice (Startling importance of Justice, Justice as a Force of Nature, Our Ability to do Justice) based on Isaiah 58:1-14.

“[On the cross] God didn’t just suffer for us he suffered with us.”

“God deserved vindication and justice. On the cross he received condemnation, so in return, we could received vindication and justice.”

– Tim Keller

The Journey NYC

I first connected with The Journey at their Easter Outreach event in Union Square (you can read more about that in my post of here). When I went along on Sunday morning I attended The Village Campus, hosted in a local school. Everyone gave me a very warm welcome and it was great to see a familiar face from the outreach event when I arrived.

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I spent some time chatting with Mark Edington, Journey’s Growth Groups Pastor hear his story a snippet of what God was doing in his life and through Journey Church. The Journey was smaller than other churches I had visited, their 1pm was also one of their smaller services (I can only assume due to the fact everyone is having Sunday lunch, but that might just be in Britain) so there was plenty of space.

Kerrick Thomas - Journey Church - New York City Church TourThe message was very simple, and what I loved about The Journey was it always led to an action, and it was an action you could take. Before we went in we were all given a message outline, and a giving envelope. Kerrick Thomas referred to both throughout his message giving each person an easy way to connect into what the church was doing and become part of it.

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Atlanta Church Tour

Here is my roundup from my Atlanta Church Tour. I’ve visited many churches during my short time in the states (technically I am on 5 in just over a week, but one was for a wedding, so I am not going to count it). It’s also not often I get the opportunity to be a first time visitor in church, hence, I wanted to distill some of my experiences in some of the largest churches in Atlanta, below. Hopefully, the ideas distilled below will help spark your creativity as you think about the experience of first-time visitors to your church, business, or even home. You can check out the churches I visited in New York in my next blog post.

New York Church Tour – Coming Soon!

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free-chapel-atlanta-church-tourI visited Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia on a Wednesday evening (7pm service). Parking attendant directed me to a car park not too far from the main building (Wednesday isn’t as busy as their Sunday services). What stood out with me in Free Chapel was the entrance for first-time guests. This is brilliant (and I didn’t find it elsewhere). The first door I reached had a large sign directing the first-time guest in through the door. Right in front of the Door was the connections team who gave me a goody bag (everyone likes a freebie) and invited me to fill in a connection card. One of the women explained the different ways of connecting in with the church, using one of their leaflets, and then handed me a voucher for a free coffee after the service.

She then walked me to the auditorium, and showed me to some seats near the front, just to the left of the stage. They had designated areas for new people, so they would always have a seat. The Mark Rutland, the main speaker for the evening, saw us on our way in and introduced himself to me, and welcomed me to the church.

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I believe it is equally important to experience how a church manages its guest that are late, not just on time (or early). Hence, I decided to arrive 15 minutes late, for this exact purpose (completely unrelated to me being at another church beforehand, and getting lost on the way there). The car park was full, so I was helpfully redirected to the overflow (excellent signs directing me there) in the nearby multi-storey. After finding the right side of the building to exit on, I clambered onto the shuttle bus to take us the two-minute trip down the road back to the main venue.

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I was welcomed as a first time guest on the bus and then directed to the auditorium where Matt Redman was already leading worship.

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North Point wins the prize for the most friendly and engaging parking attendant! I was quickly welcomed and directed to a parking space, then he waved hello and welcomed me when I passed him on my way in, and finally said goodbye when he saw me coming out – very impressive! North Point was certainly the biggest campus I visited. They have two auditoriums facing each other in the single building. On a Sunday morning both sides have their own band and then the speaker is in person on one side and live streamed to the screen in the opposite auditorium.

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I attended the 4pm service which, on reflection, I believe was aimed at regular members of the congregation that had missed the morning service, rather than first-time guests. We only used one of the two auditoriums and I would say we were under half full. The service opened in style with a full-on showpiece from the band on stage (including guitar solo).

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North Point prides itself in creating an environment where non-church people would feel comfortable and they certainly delivered on that front (rock concert style!) For the main talk we had a recording played back from the morning service. I did struggle with this. From the perspective of someone new, there is a certain amount of value you feel when someone is there in person talking to you. It’s the kind of value that you only notice when it’s missing, rather than appreciate it when it is there. It isn’t about having Andy Stanley there, it’s simply about having someone there who values your time enough that they came along in person to talk to you.

 

Columbus Ohio Skyline

Planning Without Planning – US Trip Part 1

A weekend anywhere is far too short, and when you’re travelling thousands of miles, it makes even less sense. So armed with a few days of next years holiday, I extended my wedding trip from a weekend to two weeks, with God’s reassurance he was going to sort everything out – which should be reassuring, but is often difficult to accept. No planning, just a flight in, and a flight out.

So I book my flight to Columbus Ohio, and from New York. I had a beginning and an end, but what happen in between was still a mystery to me. All the while God was reassuring me I had nothing to worry about and he had it all the planning in the bag. There is no doubt that I like to plan things. At university my friends used to mock me because they had to book me two months in advanced for a social event – I planned that far ahead! This has become harder and harder to do over time since starting my new job (things can change at the drop of a hat, so too much planning can get in the way!). But God asked me to trust him, and so I did. Well, I did up until around 9pm, Thursday night (2am UK time). I had arrived in the US with no plan after the wedding, so I panicked, and tried to book a few things!

Atlanta, being the most fruitful in my initially IBM networking endeavor, was the obvious place to start. Unfortunately due to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s appearance in Ohio that weekend, all flights leaving the city were three times the usual rate. Greyhound busses were reasonable but would involve a change and around twelve hours on the road. Not too appealing, but much easier on the pocket!

My second destination became New York. I needed to get there eventually for my flight out, and with visits to churches being top of my priority list I had to spend a weekend (at least) in the locations, I was going to. In Atlanta we have North Point, with Andy Stanley; Passion City Church, with Louie Giglio; and Free Chapel, with Jentezen Franklin. In New York, we have Redeemer Presbyterian Church, with Timothy Keller; and Hillsong NYC, with Carl Lentz and Joel Housten. So one cannot come to these cities and not spend a weekend (or a Sunday, to any extent).

So I booked my flight to New York and a room through Airbnb* – week two, sorted. Week one who knows…? I have the greyhound option if required, and the cost doesn’t change over time so there no rush to book that. Regardless, there is always Airbnb and a sofa bed in random people’s houses…

*Affiliate link

 

 

Tying the Knot

A story wouldn’t be complete without a happy ending. So it would be unfair for me not to complete the story that was one of my popular posts while in Uganda.

In the city of Columbus, Ohio, I got to wear one of the most expensive suits I shall ever own rent (it was made by Vera Wang). I had the honour of being a groomsman at Arthur and Becca’s wedding, here in the US.

Strategic, as I am, I awoke around 3:30am UK time to attend my 7:45am flight. There are advantages to being early for a flight, I can’t think of any at the moment, but I am sure there are some. I ended up at Heathrow and was through security with two hours to spare (check-in wasn’t even open when I arrived).

The logic to getting a very early flight was in offsetting the jet lag occurred with a five hour time difference. I had a row of seats to myself (no one is stupid enough to get a flight at 7:45am!) so I enjoyed the poor man’s first class experience(three seats to lie down on, with all the pillows at one end). I made it to Ohio in one piece and survived till 3am (UK time) before retiring to bed – Genius.

The wedding was hosted by Becca’s parents church and it was an excellent opportunity to be reunited with Richmond, Gerald and Rose (from Uganda). Sadly, Arthurs/Richmond’s/my Ugandan mummy was unable to get to the US, but we had a quick catch up over the phone before the ceremony began. We had succeeded in our groomsman duties. Arthur had made it to the church after a night out in a strip mall bar (strip = a line of shops) and a visit to White Castle (famous for how bad its fast food is. I couldn’t eat any of it… except some cheesecake on a stick. Yes, it came on a stick.)

Becca looked wonderful, and unlike British weddings, where the Bride and Groom tend to be rather quiet when reciting their vows, I could hear them both load and clear. Although, I am not usually standing three people away from the happy couple at British weddings, so that may have had something to do with it.