We take the subway to the Upper Westside. Near Central Park.
The subway stops seven blocks from our destination. We walk the rest of the way.
The church building doesn’t resemble any church I’ve ever seen in California. There’s not a large sign outside. Just a simple banner hanging inside the glass door. And there’s no carpet beneath the wooden pews.
No big screens. No fancy videos. No stage lights.
Not even a band.
If there’s anything remarkable about this facility, it’s the fact that it’s completely unremarkable. It’s plain, bordering stark. But it’s exceedingly clean — and somehow inviting.
It’s the church Timothy Keller began over twenty years ago.
The service begins exactly on time. With a piano and string quartet. The instruments of which are the only visible items on stage.
The congregation stands to sing. In unison. Without backup singers and rehearsed parts. Just a gathering of believers, lifting their voices in one accord.
The simplicity of worship reflects a genuine humility.
It’s more beautiful, more real than anything I’ve experienced in a long time.
Admittedly, my church background is not of the traditional and liturgical persuasion. But sitting here, in a sanctuary that embraces simplicity, I wonder why the churches back home are filled with so much stuff?
I’ve heard of congregations arguing over the color of carpet, complaining about the décor in the foyer, and squabbling over how best to decorate the stage.
In Southern California, and perhaps elsewhere too, committees are formed to address these dilemmas. Yet here, in this urban church dwelling, I can safely surmise that no such squabbles take place. Clearly, these issues are not a priority.
And I feel very much at home. Among people I’ve never met. On the far side of the country.
Because we share something — Someone — in common.
And He’s more important than the color of the foyer.
Have you ever visited a church
with traditions different than your own?
What did you learn from the experience?