Yet another amazing opportunity on this adventure was visiting with church planters in NYC with our worship leader, Brad Keel, and his wife Mary.
On Sunday, we 'taxied' all over Manhattan visiting three churches and making time for old friends who now call NYC home.
Our morning began at The Journey on the Upper West Side at 8:30. We came early to volunteer and watch set-up. Ben and Brad got to spend some one-on-one time with Nelson Searcy, pastor, and the worship team. We have read his books on systems and church planting and it was a privilege to see up close the work of church volunteers and how they are reaching the city.
All four of us paid close attention to set-up, the children's area, staging, the use of volunteers. The Journey meets in a few locations, this one being a high school where they have three morning services. Though we are a year away from launching weekly services, we left more excited and more passionate about what God is calling us to do in San Francisco.
After our morning at The Journey Church, we enjoyed a delicious burger at Jackson Hole and strolled through Central Park on our way to the Upper East Side to visit friends, Clay and Lyn Cook and their precious girls. It was such a warm treat to be in a home rather than a hotel and to enjoy the family's hospitality. Clay continues to minister in the city as Lyn builds relationships with women and takes care of home. They are a remarkable family and we gleaned much insight into raising a family in the city. Lyn was authentic as she honestly said it's hard, but worth it!
The Cook family recommended Crumbs Bakery for a delicious cupcake before traveling to Redeemer Presbyterian Church. It didn't take much convincing! Yummy. Then another cab took us to Hunters College for the 6 pm service with Tim Keller. He has pastored in NYC for years and challenges his congregation to live out the Gospel for the good of the city. I personally appreciate his wife's comments in an article that NYC was the best place to raise her three boys.
Finally, we taxied down to the Lower East Side and scurried to make it to the 7 pm service at Apostles Church, where JR Vassar pastors. We enjoyed lunch with JR on Friday where we got to ask lots of questions and hear about his vision for the city and the church. This service was in an Episcopal Church full of beauty and reverence. It was exciting to see many young professionals in the service.
We continue to learn and pray as we are just a few months from moving to San Francisco. Walking the streets of NYC and talking at every meal and with every cup of coffee, the four of us were constantly debriefing what we saw and experienced. I was reminded on this trip how gifted Ben is as a leader and visionary. We spent time with church planters that are at least 4 years into it. It was overwhelming to me at times to think of how our church would get from a vision on paper to a building to a collective group of people. I am confident in what God has placed in Ben and am eager to one day have future church planters come and visit Epic Church San Francisco and see what God has done.