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Vineyard Christian Fellowship, New York City, New York
Christian Fellowship, New York City, New York.
of Vineyard Churches.
The River holds services at 41 Broad Street, the former Lee
Higginson Bank Building, in a venue known as the Broad
Street Ballroom, which also serves as the auditorium and
performance hall for the Claremont
Preparatory School. The building was designed in 1929 by
Cross and Cross Architects, once known as "New York's architects
of choice" and designers of hundreds of Manhattan churches,
office buildings, hotels, stores (most notably Tiffany &
Co.), and elegant private homes. In the art deco style, the
ballroom (formerly the bank's main banking hall) is grand in
every sense of the word, with cathedral-like high ceilings,
gilded columns, and a large mural entitled A Pageantry of
the History of Commerce by Sea by the noted muralist Griffith
Baily Coale, whose works adorn buildings throughout the eastern
United States. For church, there were rows of chairs set up
facing the front stage. There was also a food table set up on
the rear left side, as well as a table with CDs , books and
literature in the back. Boxes for offerings had also been placed
in the back.
This is a "church for people who don't do church." It mainly
attracts young people – I would say that almost everyone was
under 40; I didn't see any old people. Dress was casual, mainly
jeans. The River holds classes for those seeking answers about
faith, and has a ministry to people with HIV/AIDS. There are
two services each Sunday morning.
This is the financial district of Manhattan, with short, narrow,
twisted streets veering off the (comparatively) aptly named
Broad Street. The New York Stock Exchange is just a few doors
John Furste, worship pastor, led the worship, and Charles Park,
senior pastor, preached the sermon. Music was provided by Jeremy
Riddle, a Christian concert and recording artist from California.
The date & time:
October 19, 2008, 11.45am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Almost full, about nine-tenths full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. As I came in the building, a woman handed me a bulletin
and greeted me very warmly. I received many welcoming smiles
upon entering the auditorium. There was a greeting period in
the beginning of the service, similar to the peace of a traditional
service. People introduced themselves to me as they shook hands.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. Chairs with comfortable cushioning covered in vinyl.
How would you describe the pre-service
It was very lively, as in a social gathering. People were greeting
each other and chatting. As the food table was already set up,
many were helping themselves to food. It felt like a party.
What were the exact opening words of the
What books did the congregation use during the
No books at all were used. The song lyrics and scripture verses
were projected on a huge screen on the stage. The Bible versions
were the New International Version and the New American Standard
What musical instruments were played?
A trio consisting of acoustic guitar/vocals, electric guitar
and djembe (African drum).
Did anything distract you?
I did feel distracted when the music became loud during worship,
and by people taking plates of food to eat during the service.
I was also a bit confused about communion. They hold a more
or less formal communion service the first Sunday of each month,
but on other Sundays communion is available in the back of the
church during the service, as a do-it-yourself type of thing.
This was completely new to me. I didn't partake.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Non-traditional and loosely structured. There was no formal
liturgy. The worship – at least on this Sunday – was grounded
in Christian folk-rock music. The music trio led the worship
by playing folk-rock songs with lyrics on the screen for sing-along.
Many people did clap along. I'm not sure what it's called when
people raise their right hand and wave it around while praying
or singing, but I feel it qualifies as a style, since many people
did it during worship. I don't think I saw any left hands up.
There was a brief prayer before the sermon.
Exactly how long was the
37 minutes long.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Pastor Charles Park was engaging as a preacher; he was funny and his wit was completely accessible. He spoke very clearly and the sound system was excellent. He walked back and forth with a microphone, looking directly at the congregation as he spoke.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The sermon was the first of a three-part series: "The Centered
Life: Living Outside the Box," and expanded on John 7:37-8:11
(the Pharisees doubt that Jesus is the Messiah and marvel that
he has not been arrested; meanwhile, Jesus forgives the adulteress
at whom no one is blameless enough to cast stones). The Pharisees
couldn't see Jesus as the Messiah because of their rigid "bounded
set" thinking. But rigid systems crash when the unpredictable
happens. Current financial problems are examples. Jesus was
the model of a centered life, and could handle the challenges
the Pharisees gave him. We need to learn to live outside the
box and to keep our connection to God fresh and alive.
Which part of the service was like being in
The sermon was spiritually and intellectually challenging.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I didn't like watching people eat during the service. During
the second song of the worship period, the music became rather
loud and people were moved to stand. So some were sitting and
some standing. I felt a bit out of place at times.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The food table was practically in front of me, so I took food
and then stood looking lost. Someone came right up and asked
if it was my first time there, and I immediately became engaged
in conversation with a couple of people.
How would you describe the after-service
Assorted cheese slices, pita slices, carrots, cucumbers, celery
sticks, tomato slices, various dips and spreads, little bagels,
assorted muffins, various kinds of juice and tea, coffee –
all in styrofoam cups and on paper plates.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 I would like Pastor Park in a more traditional church,
but I'm sure he wouldn't like it and his congregation would
be very unhappy without him. I do like doing church, so River
couldn't be my regular. I would miss the organ, choir and sacred
music, hymns and the quiet atmosphere of a church. At coffee
hour, a woman asked me if I had liked the service. I said I
liked some of it, such as the sermon and some of the music,
but I was used to something more traditional. She said, "Oh,
you mean like singing hymns?" I found that funny, because
she and others there would probably have no ability to make
it through a traditional service no eating, no hand-waving
what would they do? After all, they "don't do church!"
But I liked the 11.45 starting time – a good church for
night people. I'm pretty sure I will be back sometime to visit.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It actually made me very happy that people who have a difficult
time with church can have a place to worship and hear the word
of God. I found it moving.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The message in the sermon, the interesting auditorium, and some
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