My gratitude for the ministry I received from The Village Church for more than a decade has been battling with my grief over TVC’s demise, in ways that have perhaps put me as the caboose in this train of tributes to our church. Maybe that status befits the role I ended up adopting as Curmudgeon-in-Residence (but in love!) at TVC.
I first walked through the doors of TVC at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on West 11th Street on a frosty morning in early January 2003. I had previously lived in NYC for 17 years and had just moved back, following a hiatus of what turned out to be three years due to a job change that had relocated me to San Diego. I was so happy to return to NYC and to discover TVC. I have a vivid memory from that first visit, of several among the faithful who were sporting turtleneck sweaters. So Village-y! (At least before all the hedge-funders and media and celebrity types began moving in.) And it didn’t hurt that the family of our Pastor, Sam Andreades, was suburban in size (all six of them!) and yet so smart and interesting in a very urban kind of way.
I came to think of TVC under Sam’s pastoring as being a Full Gospel Presbyterian Church. It was not a place that pandered to popular preferences or that dumbed down (let alone ignored) the Bible, but rather that spoke Scriptural Truth in Love as the Holy Spirit gave Sam and our leadership the understanding to do. I never thought of us as a single-issue church, but I do believe that God gave to TVC a special calling to think and talk about gender in a Biblically serious and pastoral way. The depth of conviction that God inspired in Sam on that touchy topic was in some ways costly to us as a congregation, but it also set an example for how to be gutsy about grappling with the Gospel and its implications for ordering our lives in daily discipleship. Those of us who became part of TVC are the better for it.
On the occasion of “Last Call” at TVC for our closing service on April 7, I led the Call to Worship and chose as the Biblical text what I described as “a drinking story”: the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well and his offer to her of living water, as told in John 4. I selected that passage because I believe it had something important to say about the character of TVC and our Pastor. Sam did the hard work, week after week, of digging a new well of living water for bearing witness to the Word Made Flesh, which rehydrated the thirsty souls of the rest of us who gathered each Sunday to let down our empty buckets. And we were a church where messy personal pasts were no barrier to receiving a generous welcome and experiencing life-changing fellowship that was personal in both scale and substance. Come as you are – but don’t expect God or TVC to let you stay that way! There were those God sent to us who had been looking for that kind of church their whole lives, and who finally found it at TVC.
So thank you, Village Church. O God whose ways are sometimes so mysterious but always good, I pray that You will equip us to keep the light of TVC shining in the new places where You lead us.