Posted by: ritagone | March 30, 2016

New York, New York!

I promised I would do two more updates about my recent trip to Lisbon and New York; last week I talked a bit about the time spent in Lisbon after our Communitas Summit Leadership conference, and today I’d like to finish the trip with our few days (way too few) in New York City before flying home to L.A., and then I promise I’m done talking about this trip. I hope recounting our adventure hasn’t been one of those experiences we all dread, like watching someone’s travel slides. I realize that, while it was an adventure for me and Stephen and J.D., it may not seem so for you, dear reader, and if I haven’t made it interesting for you, I apologize. Bear with me, then, for one more short blog post, and I promise that next week we’ll be on to other topics. I have an interesting one in mind, as a matter of fact, and there certainly is enough going on around us to be of interest in anyoTH8A3500-1ne’s blogs these days!

Taking someone to New York City for the first time is like taking someone to Mars for the first time (I am imagining here, of course), being able to see everything through the eyes of a newcomer. It embellishes everything you’ve seen many times before with a new aura of excitement and amazement.

We ate delicious food, stayed mid-town (54th and Park, for those of you who are familiar with the layout of Manhattan) in a charming boutique hotel, saw two musical theater matinees that were off the charts wonderful (the latest revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” with a phenomenal cast, and a marvelous production of “Wicked” with what I thought was a cast as good as the original with Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel). We strolled around Times Square, always an experience in itself. We went to the amazing Apple Store on 5th Avenue, walked a lot, and didn’t have enough time, as is always the case in New York, to do everything that we wanted to do.

But the highlight of the trip to New York City for both Stephen and myself was definitely going Sunday morning to a service at Redeemer Presbyterian Church Eastside, the church founded by Tim Keller which meets in three locations all over Manhattan. The one we attended meets in Hunter College’s auditorium. Tim Keller wasn’t preaching. Apparently he goes from one campus to another so that people won’t attend only where he’s speaking, a very wise plan. But – to be honest – I didn’t miss him at all. The service was so fabulous that Tim Keller was the last thing on my mind. Worshiping Jesus was the first.

It was solemn, sedate, stately, quite liturgical, which I loved, and quite a welcome contrast to what I’ve grown used to.

I watched a talk online recently given by Alistair Begg, one of my long-time idols in the Christian community. In it, he referred to the Austrian classical composer Gustav Mahler, comparing Mahler’s symphonic compositions to those of Mantovani’s music. “Mahler, although he’s harder, is always going to be of more lasting value than Mantovani. Mahler will tear your heart out…and maybe put it back in again, for you.” As he was talking, it occurred to me (sadly) that most Christians in contemporary churches – and I don’t mean this to sound elitist, but it probably is – probably don’t even know who Mahler is, much less Mantovani. It’s a sign of our times – of the last few decades – that we believers have all been fed the myth that only contemporary music – with drums and electric guitars and a more than faint tinge of the Rolling Stones – will bring in those outsiders who won’t set foot in the door of the church if they are under 40 and an organ or a string quartet plays instead.

Redeemer Church Eastside in New York City put this myth to rest for me once and for all. Meeting in the auditorium of Hunter College, as I said, as I looked around behind me (we got there early, so we were seated in the first rows), I realized that almost everyoneTimothyKellerHunterCollege there worshiping to Brahms was under 40 – way under 40, and loving every minute of it. Five hymns interspersed throughout the service were accompanied by a booming organ, resonating throughout the room and making you feel that God was truly there smiling and loving every second of it Himself.

There was responsive reading between one of the pastors and the congregation. There was — wait for it!!! — SILENCE!! YES, time for the people in the congregation to sit and commune with God one on one. It was glorious! There was a small children’s choir that sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” to the accompaniment of two little sisters playing their violins! There was not a drum nor an electric guitar in sight anywhere!! No one was jumping up and down a la Hillsong to show you how much they loved Jesus. These people loved Jesus, all right, but they were much quieter about it, and it pierced my soul with such pure sweetness and joy.

I can’t stop thinking about that worship service. It has literally changed the way I view what a worship service – for me – should be. I’m not speaking for anyone else. I’m speaking for me. But if, in the midst of the most sophisticated city on the North American continent, hymns and classical music can draw in young people to worship God like this, then I’m not buying the myth and the lies anymore. At 71 years of age, I’m rebelling. So the trip to New York City has changed me profoundly, and I’ve yet to see the complete impact of it in my life.

So was it a great and life-changing trip? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It doesn’t get any better than amazing theater and an amazing church experience!!!

And now I am done reporting on the trip to both Lisbon and New York. The slides – as it were – are put away, and we’ll move on.



  1. I still wonder … If I reply back to you from your blog, does everyone see it?

    I loved your blog I hope a lot of people read it. I would think every Christian would long for the experience you had.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Rita–love your words here. Although I am of a slightly younger ilk and can appreciate “electric” worship here and there, I totally agree with you about the simple appropriateness of classical music to worship God. Quality and excellence in word and sound for the Maker of it all. Amen to your post! Top it off with some liturgy like corporate worship and a thoughtful, biblical sermon from Tim Keller, and my day (month?) is made.
    Do you have time to see Grace while you’re there? She would love it!
    Thanks for your insightful post!

  3. Rita what you experienced on Easter Sunday alone was worth the read. How encouraging to think of so many under forty being moved by classical worship music and true reverence for silence. I am happy for you that your trip went so well and that you got to finish it off with fine Theater and Worship. Now I need to read up on your earlier journey’s ramblings. Your writing is beautiful!!!!

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