Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.
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This past year has been quite the spiritual journey. Living with Monica and Farrah has opened me up tremendously to new religious experiences and questioning my own faith. I consider myself open minded and am truly intrigued by Judaism and rediscovering my Catholic beliefs.
Last month, I received a comment to one of my posts that struck me.
“Take time for praise and worship, do not make your profession and the music stars your God. If you do not nurture and work on your faith, it will go away. There are 10,080 minutes in a week, go to Sunday mass and spend 60 minutes with God who has provided all these blessings.”
While I know I seem to profess music is my religion, I by no means idolize these rock stars as my God. The comment really got me thinking and while at first I was offended, I thought maybe I should try out some churches in New York for Sunday services.
Last weekend, one of my best friends since middle school, Sarah, came for the weekend and mentioned a few churches she and her friend wanted to check out. Thus, began my weekend of church hopping as we came to call it. Growing up and attending a church with stained glass windows, Bibles in every pew and a huge cross of Jesus on the alter was the norm for me and I never really fathomed a mass to be anywhere else.
At 10:30am we arrived at Hunter College for Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s morning mass. Held in a large auditorium with a stage as an alter, the mass was similar to the Catholic experience I’ve had my entire life. However, there was one distinct difference I noticed as the first few hymns were sung and it was time for the scripture reading and sermon — everyone around me had notebooks and pens in their hands, ready to take notes from Dr. Timothy Keller’s sermon. In all my years going to church, never did I witness this. It never struck me to take a notebook to church and write anything down.
One of Dr. Keller’s takeaway points for me was to think independently when it comes to life and the Bible. At some time or another, a section in the Bible has offended someone, he said, which means the Bible is the truth. Not everyone is going to agree with everything written, but this questioning and conflict helps to create a better relationship with God.
Catholicism, on the other hand, has taught me to always accept the Bible as being 100% true. I never questioned anything that was preached to me. While Catholicism no doubt laid the groundwork to my faith and spirituality, I wish I had the ability or courage to question things more growing up than simply accepting “that’s the way it is, no exceptions.” Then again, as a kid I very rarely debated anything and just accepted what my parents, teachers, priests, etc. said to be true. So maybe its not even a Catholic thing for me, but the fact that I’ve grown up and become more inquisitive.
At 4pm we headed to Irving Plaza for Hillsong NYC. Earlier in the day Sarah joked, “Are you ready for some electric guitar at church?” but I didn’t quite know what she was talking about. Walking into Irving Plaza and hearing a rock band play was not a new experience for me, but realizing this rock band was part of church services was definitely a concept that would never occur to me. From the long line at the door to people wearing jeans and sneakers, you’d think it was a Friday night. As the band played, a projector screen displayed behind them with the words so people could sing along.
After a few songs, pastor Carl Lentz said he’ll do his “30 minute preach,” which focused on breaking the chains of discouragement and indifference. Bible verses were peppered in between his talk, but what struck me was how relatable it was. He name dropped Twitter, Facebook and eHarmony and intertwined this into his preaching and broke things down to universal truths.
I’m very much a fan of quotes — the more inspiring the better — and this pastor had many.
“If you want to stand out as a Christian in NYC, you need to be an encourager. If you are known as an encourager, you will also be known as a soul winner,” Lentz said.
Simply a nice comment on the subway or at work can work wonders, he explained. “If you are surrounded by discouragement you need to become your best encourager. Be a Christian who is always feeding themselves.”
His biggest concern was indifference and he stressed that we must be Christians that refuse to be indifferent. “I would rather you be a crazy heathen than a lukewarm Christian.” Bold comment, yes but powerful nonetheless.
Have I become a lukewarm Christian? I don’t know. Granted, I don’t go to church every Sunday but maybe I should start. While I know I definitely related to Hillsong NYC more than Redeemer Presbyterian Church, the day still lacked the traditions I’ve grown accustom to while sitting in a Catholic church. But who’s to say I can’t feel just as close to God after an inspiring band interview or heartfelt conversation? Only I can figure out for myself which is the right way to worship.