Village was such an important part of my life and my family’s growth that it was hard, as it was closing, to properly assess and wrap up what exactly had happened there. Given some more time and reflection there are two memories I hold most precious.
Village was my 9/11 church. Our home was two blocks from the towers, and we didn’t return for months. The church spiritually and literally took care of us during those difficult months – Clyde and Valerie even took us in, showing us God’s grace and care during that impossible time. On 9/11 itself, my TriBeCa middle school evacuated up the West Side Highway to another public school: PS3. Ten years later, on 9/11/11, Priscilla and I brought our newborn son to church for the first time, at Village, then worshiping in the very same school. After that service we walked along the highway again, this time south, toward Ground Zero. I think this is what the church has been for us: turning our darkness into light, our despair into hope, a dirty city into a flowering garden. God was showing me that no matter our hopelessness, we always have a home in him.
A few years after 9/11, as a high schooler, I started bringing my now-wife Priscilla to Village. One of those early sundays, much of the sermon was occupied by the entire congregation flapping a giant parachute — in the sanctuary. I don’t remember the message or metaphor (it must have been a metaphor for something, right? Jesus? Probably Jesus.) but I remember the immense pride I felt to show Priscilla this body of believers I belonged to. It was a group which valued art, beauty, science, and play, which worshipped in the park, which welcomed all. New York society told me that I was a puritan and a fool for following Christ, or worse, that I was a bigot. I felt that I could point to this group of believers and say “see? This is what the church looks like.”