Posted by: ritagone | March 16, 2016

Lisbon and New York: Seen and Loved

Over the next few weeks I’d like to share with you some of the highlights of my recent trip to Lisbon and New York, a great trip filled with many memorable events and occurrences. As you might alrunspecified$_57eady know from a Facebook posting, I was accompanied by two young men, Stephen Millage and JD Laske, who were both interested in finding out more about the in’s and out’s of Communitas and how we “roll.” It was a pleasure to see both of them connect with members of the staff and easily find their way around conversations and workshops at the Summit conference.

After the conference we spent two days with the energetic and unbelievably happy Maria, a Portuguese woman whose joy it was to put us all into her tiny Peugeot and drive us all over not only the city of Lisbon and its sights but so many fascinating places on the outskirts: Sintra, Cascais, and places many tourists might never see. We ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant overlooking the Atlantic, where we had what I consider the best guacamole I’ve ever had! We visited Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe, where winds were so strong even I – with my bulk – felt in danger of blowing away. I’ve never experienced that sensation of being literally swept off my feet. From the safety of the car Maria and I watched while “the boys” took dozens of photographs and while a group of Japanese tourists stood on the narrow wall overlooking the ocean below. Stupidly. People have died doing so, caught suddenly off guard by a strong gust of wind. Recently a Polish couple, taking a selfie, (and unwisely backing up while doing so) were killed in front of their small child as he watched them fall backwards to their deaths below. It gives you pause, believe me. But what a feeling, standing as far west in Europe as you can go, knowing that Portuguese explorers must have felt the same exhilaration as they set out for the New World!

Then on to New York. Stephen had never been there, so it was a little like unveiling an alien planet to someone from earth. Everything was new and fresh to him, and it was glorious to share one of my favorite places with someone who was seeing it for the first time.

Perhaps the highlight of the entire trip for me was this past Sunday morning and a visit to Redeemer Church Eastside, one of the sites of Tim Keller’s Presbyterian church founded over 20 years ago. Meeting in Hunter College’s auditorium, it was packed. And it was packed with mainly young people. If anyone says that New York City has no spiritual heart, I would send them to Redeemer Church on a Sunday morning and tell them to watch the faces of the worshipers. Joy abounded. No, Tim Keller himself wasn’t preaching there that morning, but that was fine. The pastor who spoke did an excellent job of challenging the congregation and bringing forth the word of God to us.

But the greatest experience for me was the music. I’m so used to “rock and roll” music being the standard in church, I’m so inured to being told that this is what young people want and what will bring them to the service, that to hear a string quartet and piano playing Brahms as a prelude, offering music and postlude made my heart soar. Being led by a female vocalist to sing five hymns throughout the service brought tears to my eyes, especially since an organ was the musical instrument that accompanied us. A small children’s choir sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” accompanied by two young girls playing their violins. I wanted to find the musical director and kiss him on both cheeks. He “gets” it. He understands that music – and silences and responsive readings with the congregation – are all part of how to worship God throughout the service on a Sunday morning.

It was truly the best corporate worship experience I have personally had in a very long time, and I loved every minute of it. And it has confirmed in my mind that insisting that rock music alone be the worship in a church is pure laziness, narrow-mindedness and sloth.

So if you ask me what was the most profound experience of my trip to Lisbon and New York, it wasn’t the Summit conference, although that was meaningful. It wasn’t the wonderful sight-seeing adventures in and around the beautiful city of Lisbon with the energetic Maria. It wasn’t the moving and emotionally charged performance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” although I had forgotten how much that story touches my heart and reminds me of my own heritage.

It was sitting in the Hunter College auditorium listening to a string quartet and a piano play Brahms and looking behind me at a sea-full of young faces listening rapturously to music that was bringing them closer to God and knowing that this was good and true worship. And being able to thank God over and over again in that hour and fifteen minutes for the worship experience I was having.

Next week I’ll elaborate on some of these experiences a bit more that I’ve just touched on today. Stay tuned!!!



  1. Rita, I’m so glad you had a great time! Yes, beautiful choral and classical music sung to God has always reminded me of a taste of what heaven will be like! Blessings, Sharon

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