My wife, Sarah, and I first came to the Village Church at the invitation of a friend two weeks before Easter in April 2003 for the baptism of a friend of his. That friend was Darin Pesnell and the friend being baptized was Charlie Spell. We were living in the suburbs of NJ at the time, so the idea of trekking into New York for church on a Sunday sounded like an adventure — and little did we know that we’d spend the next 500 or so Sundays on that same adventure. We came, but we weren’t prepared for was how head-over-heals in love we were going to fall with this church.
Three things struck me about the Village Church that day. The first, was how completely the church seemed to embody an expression of the faith. This was helped, in no small way, by the worship leading of David Sacks whose passion for The Lord was just so infectious. And then, in the middle of this beautiful service, this tall, bearded, erudite preacher stands up. And I remember his sermon. It was a baptism service, so Pastor Sam was addressing the matter of the order of water and Holy Spirit activity: does it happen inside first, and only then should you get baptized with water? Or do you get the outward, ceremonial sign of baptism first and then Jesus sends the Holy Spirit? This pastor says, “Well on this subject, the Bible kind of says, ‘whatever.’ It’s a very post-modern book, the Bible.”
Two weeks later, from 40 miles away, we began the drive to Manhattan for worship. Four months later, we moved to Newark, NJ. Sarah took a job in Chelsea. Later I started working in TriBeCa. Ten years later, the Village Church still means so much to us and has brought us so much laughter and so many tears.
I remember attending home group up on the Upper West Side with the Pesnells and the Tafts. And then leading one — after Scott Greider’s notorious “encouragement” — down in the Village at Bob and Josie’s. Late nights spent on the website. Early Wednesday mornings at prayer group with Karen Lacy, Christine Nakaoka, and Jeaney Yoon, crying out to God for Greenwich Village from our book nook at the Path Cafe. Church Health Team meetings at Whole Foods cafeteria on Bowery. Dangerously Subversive meetings at Hope in Sight. And meeting with the Session, my brothers in Christ, together underbearing the work of the church.
Our three children were baptized in each of the three buildings TVC occupied since 2003: Dahlia in the SDA church, Joel in PS3, and Violet here a couple weeks ago.
The memories come in flashes. Sam preaching one time about driving through Death Valley with his family and rolling down the windows so they can experience the intensity of it until they couldn’t bear it any longer and demand he roll up the windows. To which he begrudgingly replies, “Fine. Quench the Holy Spirit.” The Spiritual Gifts retreat where we discussed how, when, like Eric Liddel in Chariots of Fire, when we serve from our giftedness we “feel God’s pleasure.” Chuckling with Karen and sharing our laughter with God as we prayed over steaming cups of coffee and tea. The nervous excitement of the outdoor service at Washington Square Park. Walking with 20 people over to Momma Buddha for lunch after church. Praying with one attendee as he shared with me, in tears, about how he had come back to Christ just a few months prior and found the church where he feels like he could call home.
Gods fingerprints have been all over this work. And it has been such a privilege to be a part of it and see how He moved and changes lives here and the friendships that we forged along the way. We’ve been so appreciative of the leadership of Sam and Marika Andreades, exhibiting such faith in any adversity, and a steadfast trust in the hand of our heavenly father. They’ve been nothing short of inspiring.
Because of life in New York City, the Village Church has always been like Heraclitus’ river: you never step in the same Village Church twice. But isn’t this what we might expect?
“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16 MSG)”
Seeing the faces in that last service reminded me of how many lives this ministry has touched. It was a great mercy the Lord gave to us, a glimpse of eternity.