One of the most com pelling stories of the last decade has been the reemergence and revitalization of Downtown. It may, in fact, continue as one of our most compelling stories of the next decade.
The High Line and renovation of the waterfront along the East and Hudson Rivers have beautified recreation and green space. New construction has increased the residential population, particularly young families who benefit from several new schools. The ten-year old Tribeca Film Festival and forthcoming Whitney Museum have caused Downtown to thrive as a cultural center. A new transportation hub will make Downtown even more accessible.
And, of course, the World Trade Center site has been completely re-envisioned with a memorial to honor the victims of 9/11 and with an entirely new complex of buildings, including the Freedom Tower, to signal Downtown’s rebirth. In fact, over the past few years, several new houses of worship have opened their doors to serve the spiritual needs of Downtown people. The Downtown story is one of redemption and resurrection as the oldest part of our City now experiences rebirth on every corner.
Throughout the summer, I met with over 130 people to begin thinking about how we might serve Downtown together as one of Redeemer’s congregations. Together, we prayed, brainstormed and developed a profile of the various and distinctive needs of Downtown. Some of our insights include:
• Downtown is one of the most diverse part of New York City, economically, professionally and socially. Unlike more exclusively residential or commercial parts of the city, Downtown is a place where social, professional, cultural and relational spheres of life all overlap within the same geographical area.
• Downtown people are typically open-minded and comfortable with new ideas, while few are conventionally religious. They tend to be more self-defining and non-institutional than other New Yorkers.
• Downtown people often live with a strong sense of neighborhood and place.A map of Manhattan immediately reveals numerous distinct areas of Downtown, each with its own culture, street life and ethos, both mainstream and “off the grid.”
We all spent time discussing what a flourishing Downtown might look like—how could a gospel-centered church seek the shalom of this part of the city? Some of our ideas include richer community and relational networks, support for a thriving cultural and professional life, a more thorough and everyday experience of mercy and justice, and an understanding of the gospel that is robust enough to help people live out their faith in a part of the city that is as dynamic as it is complex.
Over the next few months, we will begin to promote a more gospel-centered community Downtown. Events like the upcoming Catalyst initiative will help align us to serve parts of the City where we have not yet had a physical presence. Local “pop-up” services throughout the year will help us to experience worship together.
We are excited about the interest and momentum we’re seeing for Downtown and are hoping to begin weekly worship earlier than originally planned—perhaps as early as fall 2012. More importantly, we hope to build a sense of community and mission even before we begin our regular worship together. In Acts 11, there is a story about Barnabas who travels from Jerusalem to Antioch to encourage people in the work that God was already doing there. We feel tremendously privileged to begin serving in a part of the City, knowing that God is already at work there and is eager for us to join in.
For updates and information on the Downtown congregation please go to www. redeemer.com/downtown. Join us now, in this formative stage!