Seeking God in the journey.
The video above is a brief experience of Ellen's Stardust Diner. Definitely worth the wait!
If you've ever been to New York City, you spend a lot of your first day looking up. It is a city building in multiple dimensions: north, south, east, west, airspace, and underground... not to mention being surrounded by water.
On this particular journey, my colleagues and I had three goals in mind:
- Rest. It almost seems antithetical to rest in the city that never sleeps. But after two years of a Pandemic where our jobs got harder and harder and after seeing and feeling the growing pains as the church transforms, we needed to separate ourselves from the day to day work in our communities and take time to breathe. And while our scheudle was full, it kept our minds occupied enough to forget what we left back home but also gave us enough time to discuss what we were experiencing and what God might be saying to us.
- Experience. We wanted to experience what was going on post-covid in a city known for overcoming obstacles and transforming how they lived. We talked to three experts while we were there. One was a pastor who had pastored a church in the city for 30 years. One was an actor who talked to us about movement, trust, honesty, and faith in ways we hadn't thought of. The third was appointed to the UN and talked about global issues regarding vaccines, health, poverty, nursing shortages, and denominational structure. Each experience was complimented with a meal in order to stay true to our theme of Parts Unknown ala Anthony Bourdain.
- Imagining. The world was changing before the Pandemic and our group wanted to find innovative ways to be the church. The Pandemic accelerated the speed of change. This trip was originally supposed to be in Croatia in 2020. We originally wanted to come up with our 2020 plan, thinking our denomination would be splitting that year. Now we aren't really sure what plan to come up with. We don't know if we are to ask 'what's next" or find our 2022 plan. So instead of planning and strategizing, we took time to imagine. Our itinerary included art, the theater community, where people gather, cooking, and table fellowship. Each one helped us to imagine in different ways.
Stop 1: Times Square.
Our hotel was just north of Times Square. Which is neither square nor does it house the New York Times but id did at one time and the name stuck. Times Square is an overload for your senses. So many differen visuals come at you that it's hard to take it all in. In our brief time there, we saw the UMC billboard for Christmas (and this was March - I was told it cost us nothing due to a very generous person) and another changing billboard for Jesus that reprimanded people for not giving to the poor (and they caught h31L for it because their cost was millions of dollars). We also saw a proposal, street performers, tons of tour groups, and more people in one place since the pandemic started. And we saw God in each of them. The people were joyful. They radiated positivity. I know that many were tourists and excited to be there but there was a disconnect from all of the negativity that had been thrown at us in recent weeks/months. There was something to be celebrated and God was in the midst of it.
Stop Two: The Starbucks Reserve Roaster. There are only five in the world. One is in New York City. Each one is different. The Reserve Roasteries are a combination of innovation, experience, and global development. Starbucks has partner networks that help connect non-profits together for greater impact. While this isn't apparent when you shop at a Roastery, it is visible when you take a tour and talk with the employees there. They are doing a ton of social justice work and while they may not be perfect at it, that doesn't stop them from taking steps towards it. Their innovation shows in the new methods of brewing coffee and giving people an experience when they sit down at the Coffee Bar and try a flight of a exclusively blended roast brewed four different ways. I highly recommend you go to one if you are every in a city that has one!
At the end of day one we didn't necessarily feel rested but we did feel like we could take a deep breath. We would be together for 9 days and we wanted to make the most of it. We had already had some major experiences in the few hours we had been there. And we began to see that good work and innovation are being done around the world in ways that we may not be aware of.
We ended the day anticipating the next and with the sense that God is surely with us.
Until Everyone Hears,
P.S. - Here's is a post with a video from one of the members of our group. It was posted during the early 2020 shut down. It is still appropriate.
P.P.S - Matthew 7:7-8; New International Version
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.