Redeemer Lincoln Square signals a return to Redeemer’s former upper west side home at the Society for Ethical Culture on the corner of 64th and Central Park West. For anyone who was a part of Redeemer’s West Side congregation prior to our move to 150 W. 83rd Street five years ago, this is a return to a familiar space. By the same token, Redeemer is largely known to our neighbors in Lincoln Square. But though this is a return to something familiar and some of us may remember the ways things were “back then,” our prayer is that Redeemer LSQ be made new — that we would find new ways to reach our neighbors, rethink how Redeemer does community, and better serve the city from this location.
As God is prone to do, He showed us a glimpse of that reality on Easter Sunday with an incredible influx of old friends, new friends, familiar faces, families with kids, seekers with questions, and everyone in between. With only 650 bulletins printed, the crowd of 939 quickly exceeded our expectations. By the size of the crowd, it was apparent that many had taken the opportunity to invite friends, co-workers, and family members from outside the Redeemer regulars. The experience of coming to a new church, and especially of inviting someone from outside the church, has a refreshing and enlightening effect, as it forces us to see and hear the crowd, music, service, and sermon through a visitor’s eyes, ears, and questions.
The very act of asking questions is central to the vision for Redeemer Lincoln Square: Our motto is “We are a church that values questions and the people who ask them.” This is a breath of fresh air to many visitors and seekers who have been battered by unloving religious experiences in their past — and we can’t forget that. But this posture also holds incredible potential for the leaders, volunteers, and established congregants among us as well. We, too — as Michael challenged us in his sermon — must be real and vulnerable with our doubts and ask questions; this not only helps us to anticipate the needs of newcomers, but also to grow deeper in our own faith.
For the deacons and deaconesses who are committed to LSQ, eleven of us in all, we have a unique opportunity to serve and be served by some of the brave and vulnerable among our congregation each week — to listen to their doubts, struggles, and prayers.
You may have noticed we’ve moved the weekly after-service prayers from “Deeks Up Front” to “Deeks on the Side.” This is our effort to make it a little less intimidating to approach us, particularly for those relatively new to church. It’s a small change, but it is one example of how we want to respond to the specific needs of this congregation, move away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to community, and more carefully tailor what we’re doing to the neighborhood we’re serving.
So how can LSQ take this momentum, and this familiar venue made new, and carry it forward? The answer — also familiar made new — was brought out beautifully in Michael’s sermon that day: We need to see Jesus’s wounds. Jesus put everything before the doubter’s eyes to show that all the injustices in the world — loneliness, disease, belittlement, unemployment, slander, hatred, murder, rape, abuse, sexism, racism, and classism — do not escape His eyes and they cut Him deeply. He, too, is outraged by the brokenness we see in the world.
While the diaconate is here and ready for people to come to us, we recognize that in our relationship with God, He came to us first. So as we continue to knit our community together here at Redeemer LSQ, we pray that everyone who walks through those doors becomes vulnerable and willing participants to seek each other, weaving in and out from familiar to new, friend to visitor, neighbor to foreigner, doubter to believer, known to unknown ... because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Only in that space, and with that posture of heart, can we witness God’s growth in us and become a truly transformed community.