“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
Twenty years ago I moved to New York City. Nineteen years ago I started meeting with a group of people interested in being a part of Redeemer Presbyterian’s first church plant, The Village Church. Six months later, I was among those in the first groups of Village Church members, under the leadership of Pastor Scot Sherman and seven original elders, Chris Giammona, Alan Farhi, Mako Fujimura, Tony Rose, Tom Whitford, Kenneth Kang-Hui, and Jonathan Gilley. I had no idea what I was getting into except that I knew that something special was happening as I met with these people- a sense of the Holy Spirit at work as we were all trying to figure out what church looked like and more importantly, what it looked like to serve Christ in this city. Growing up in the suburbs of Wilmington, DE, church looked a lot different to me: stained glass windows, organ music, traditional hymns, one hour services, choirs with robes, handbells, and potluck suppers. Here, I found myself in an elementary school auditorium with a semi-rock band playing worship songs for a service that went at least an hour and a half (still nothing to some communities that go on for hours, I know) and tattooed men and women serving communion with T-shirts sporting rock stars and Gumby. Homeschooling moms next to 20-something singles next to avant garde artists next to financial wizards and computer geeks- God was clearly at work and giving me a new lens on what being in community was all about.
To sum up what The Village Church has meant to me is like asking me to sum up my life. Impossible in a few paragraphs on a church’s website. I could quote Bonhoeffer (Life Together), Buechner (The Hungering Dark), and all kinds of Scripture and I’m not sure I’d find all the words to express what this journey has meant to me. The Village Church has shown me what it means to live your life as the hands and feet of Christ. To serve when it’s hard and keep doing it when it’s harder. To step into people’s homes (because what better church building is there but the people themselves?) and walk alongside them through the stuff of life. To live fully, laugh hard, pray fervently and treasure each day, with joy. I am grateful for the leadership of those I mentioned above as well as our second pastor Clyde Godwin, our interim pastors Drew Fields and Tony Hinchliff, and our third and final pastor, the inimitable Sam Andreades. The other men who served as elders over the years (oh dear Lord, let me not forget anyone!)- Tom Cannon, Roland Roberts, Eliot Kerlin, Mark Swanson, Todd Currey, Nathan Carter, David Bush, Ken Walker- and their incredible wives (plus, the wives of the originals I listed earlier: here’s to Barbara, Judy, Ellen, Brita, Christine, Chris, Lauranne, Dawn, Maria, Corrie, Mollie, Natalie, Sarah, Catherine, Valerie, and Marika). They are indeed worthy of double honor (1 Tim. 5:17) and are heroes in my eyes.
Worship leaders? What a beautiful gift of raising voices in song to our Lord. From Jonathan and Lauranne Gilley to the beloved David Sacks to Sarah Dickinson to Adam and Renee Browne, we were blessed. Blown away, really. The tireless deacons, the amazing children’s ministry leaders (let the children COME), the home fellowship group leaders (the king of them all, Scott Greider), the quieter, behind the scenes but oh so essential sound and set-up servants, communion leaders, and trustees, the interns and their wives- hands and feet, hands and feet. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and prayer…praising God…”
I am forever changed by my years at The Village Church, a place that in my heart will always be home until I know the real home that we all long for in heaven. At least two of the pastors of The Village Church had and have a great love for opera. The renowned opera singer Maria Callas once said “An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.” The Village Church began long before we were there, in God’s imagination and creative plan. What a gift to have had a part in it at all. I am grateful and always will be, long after I’ve left the “opera house.” Amen to it all.