Faith in Brooklyn: New Ways of Worship
By Francesca Norsen-Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Congregations in Brooklyn are finding new ways of nurturing worship. Faith in Brooklyn explores their creativity in a new series.
Outreach to Neighborhood Is the Heart Of This Dinner Church in Gowanus
St. Lydia’s Church in Gowanus has found innovative ways to build its ministry that has its roots in the worship style of the first Christians: sitting at table together and breaking bread. This week, the congregation, whose core ministry has been dinner church, got a tremendous boost from a successful $30,000 capital campaign via the social media site Indiegogo. The church hit the $33,000 mark on the last day of its campaign on Wednesday, July 2. This was the closing portion of a larger campaign that has raised in total over $110,000 total thus far.
St. Lydia’s was established five years ago as a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)’s New York Synod, and is named for a 1st-century Christian woman leader who offered hospitality, according to the New Testament book Acts of the Apostles. St. Lydia’s youthful pastor, the Rev. Emily Scott, has been offering services twice a week: on Sunday and Monday evenings, at a Zen Center.
Now that St. Lydia’s has found and signed a long-term lease on a larger space nearby at the intersection of Bond and Union streets, the church can expand its ministry. The successful campaign will help underwrite the design, construction and move of the new site, and the move in, targeted for later this month.
As part of each worship experience, the growing congregation—as many as 30 show up for dinner—prepares a vegetarian meal together, sits and breaks a large loaf of bread, and reflects together on the Gospel or other scripture passage. Scott presents a brief sermon, and that launches the group into a dinnertime discussion about what the Scripture says to each one personally. Then, after more prayers on each other’s behalf and a blessing—the worship continues in the form of clean-up, with everyone working together. Because meal preparation is a central part of worship it offers challenges to finding a suitable worship space.
But St. Lydia’s ministry extends beyond worship, and their choice of new space reflects that. St. Lydia’s will also be offering a “secular expansion of what we do on at church on Sunday,” Scott said. “It’s about building community. During the day, it’s going to be a co-working space. It’s a space where basically anyone who would work from home would come here and work. It’s also about breaking down isolation, because I believe a lot of people who work from home can be very isolated. It’s about building relationships with one another, and basically just living a life that’s connected to other people. I’m also interested in—with the church as a whole—reconnecting the neighborhood in different ways. There may be people in the neighborhood who have never met each other. And I hope St. Lydia’s will be a place where people can meet across various boundaries. I see the church as a nexus in the neighborhood where all sorts of different things happen and come together.”
The new space at Bond and Union will help make this happen, says Scott.
“We wanted to be on the first floor, so that those walking by could peer in and see what is going on, and have a sense that we’re present in the neighborhood through those windows into that space. And we wanted to be in a social, economically and culturally mixed neighborhood, so that we’re connecting to a lot of different groups of people within the city. We’re looking forward to getting to know our new neighbors.”
Scott envisions that the co-working space will pay for itself through membership donations for this particular purpose. “And that will help with our economics model, to help pay those very expensive New York rents.”
But money was needed also to install the HVAC and electricity and for the flexible architectural design which includes a kitchen with invection stove to help in the quick preparation of meals to serve 30 people. St. Lydia’s was given an incentive amount of $30,000 once they reached the $50,000 mark, which was easily attained, thanks to Indiegogo. As of mid-June they had reached 55 percent of their goal, and this past Monday, June 30, they exceeded that goal, thanks to an anonymous $5,000 gift. They hit $33,000 on Wednesday.
“It’s been really cool. This is our first Indiegogo campaign,” Scott told the Brooklyn Eagle. “And I think there’s something very Biblical about it; it’s very ‘loaves-and-fishes.’ A few people give generously and that inspires other people to give. It brings out the generosity of others. I find it very flattering—all the different projects on there, and the way that people jump in to give a little bit, and that adds up. You’re able to make something that might not have otherwise been possible.
“Usually right at the end there’s a very big flurry of giving and things ramp up. It’s a nice way to connect with people, too. The attention and the excitement have meant that People are following us on Twitter, and just more people finding out about what we’re up to. That all creates a lot of good energy, and more people in the world find out about what we’re doing."