By Susan Powell
In an increasingly secular world, the need to accommodate people with diverse spiritual needs is growing, particularly in eclectic NYC. Non-traditional Christian institutions are expanding by using different outreach methods to serve those who feel alienated by their religion. These innovative ministries, centered around welcome and inclusion, often entail casually getting together to eat, sing and pray, and otherwise serving those who want to worship in a less overtly religious setting than most churches provide. The speakers introduced below will share the tools in their spiritual toolboxes at Brick Church so that we might incorporate their insights into our own ministries, as we look toward the future during our 250th anniversary year.
Sunday, May 7: Making Church Work for Everyone, Rebecca Stevens
St. Lydia’s Dinner and Waffle Church places practice before belief, trusting that the practice of eating, praying and singing together moves them deeper into faith. That philosophy is at the crux of this presentation by Rebecca Stevens, which will focus on the challenges of making worship work for everyone. Rebecca is a classically trained violinist and vocalist. She has performed for children in libraries, bar hoppers in New Orleans, churchgoers in sanctuaries and choral aficionados at Carnegie Hall. Currently finishing her Masters of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary, Rebecca is currently St. Lydia’s Artist in Residence. Rebecca will address how St. Lydia’s creates a worship space that is inviting in New York’s social climate, in the Brooklyn neighborhood that St. Lydia’s is situated in, and in the doctrine of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America).
Sunday, May 14: Healing Spaces for the Not -So-Churchy Among Us, Rev. Mieke Vandersall
Not So Churchy is one of over 1000 New Worshiping Communities of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and is a recipient of the prestigious Walton Award. Their community has been featured in The New York Times, Presbyterian Outlook and Presbyterians Today. Not So Churchy began out of a need to welcome people who were previously hurt by the church, but still interested in some form of traditional worship. Worship at Not So Churchy is almost entirely sung, with musicians composing music for each service, and relies heavily on improvisation. Rev. Mieke Vandersall, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary who is currently pastor of this ministry, will lead this presentation. Among her other achievements, Rev. Vandersall is the subject of a recent documentary called Out of Order, which reveals the painful struggles faced by LGBTQ faith leaders as they address prejudice and work to build loving support within their churches.
Sunday, May 21: The Social Gospel, Then and Now, Rev. Tiffany Triplett Henkel
The Rev. Walter Rauschenbusch served and developed his theology of the Social Gospel over 100 years ago, a theology which has only grown in relevance this past century. Challenged by neo-orthodoxy and embraced in the American civil rights movement, Rauschenbusch’s understanding of the Kingdom of God continues to provoke modern Christianity and the Church’s role in social transformation. Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, the community service arm of Metro Baptist Church, serves the most vulnerable in Hell’s Kitchen, where Rauschenbusch developed his theology. Rev. Tiffany Triplett Henkel, who is Pastor of Metro Baptist Church NYC, will speak about the work of Metro Ministries and the history and impact of Walter Rauschenbusch. Rev. Tiffany Triplett Henkel holds degrees from Samford University and Princeton Theological Seminary. She sits on the boards of a number of community organizations.