New York City has a habit of drawing some of the most gifted, hard-working, loveliest, searching souls to come live here. Fourteen years ago, when I moved to New York City, I was neither among the most gifted nor the loveliest, but I was definitely among the searching.
I was raised in a Christian home by wonderful, believing parents. Throughout my upbringing, Christianity was confusing to me, but I loved church because I could sing there. I sang in church for the first time when I was 6, and many years later I headed to New York to be a singer. Vague traces of Christianity stayed with me during this time, but I was among the spiritually lost.
I had lived in the city about a year when 9/11 happened. I watched the towers fall from the roof of my 2nd Street apartment. Like many New Yorkers then, 9/11 brought on a spiritual crisis. I realized life is fleeting. I had no frame for how to deal with suffering. I no longer wanted to be spiritually lost. Redeemer was the only church I had heard of, so I went. I found myself sitting in the Hunter College auditorium in September, and by October I had met Jesus.
You could describe my experience as a classic conversion. During one of Tim’s sermons a conviction flooded over me that the Bible is true, Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, and that I was changed. It was a bittersweet, tragic, magical time for me. The city and everyone in it reeled and grieved, and I became new.
Ever since then, Redeemer has been my church home. They let me sing here, too, and serving under Leo Schuster’s leadership on the East Side has been one of the greatest joys of my life. There are frequent moments during the East Side evening service, when I wonder if someone is sitting in Hunter College, just like I did, searching and questioning. I hope you’re out there and if you are, keep coming.
When I began writing this, I did not know that I’d get news of Leo Schuster’s resignation. I greeted this news with tears, like many of you.
In 2011, God called Ellen and Leo Schuster, who truly are among the most gifted and loveliest, to New York City. They have led and loved us well.
I’ve learned New York City has another habit, an annoying and poignant one: it makes us say goodbye. As often as the city draws in wonderful people, the city also sends them out again, releasing them for new adventures.
So the East Side says goodbye. We also say, Why do you have to go so soon? God must have some amazing work in store for you. We say, Where you go, our love and prayers are with you.
We also say thank you. Thank you for serving so faithfully. And thank you for being part of the first 25 years of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.