It seems like just yesterday that I made my way to the East Side, climbing the short steps to the door of the Unitarian Church of All Souls to attend my first Redeemer service. I thought, how cool – a warm, tastefully painted church, clean and full to the gills with a young, upwardly mobile crowd of believers. A jazz band played, people actually sang. And Tim Keller gave a sermon that pointed to what I had been looking for my whole life. Grace of the Gospel. Truth. The real story of Jesus.
By the time I moved to NYC in 1989, I had spent years attending all types of churches – from the small Episcopal Church I grew up with in Annapolis to various churches in Seattle where I attended a Free Methodist college – from Catholic, to Presbyterian, to Pentecostal community churches. After moving to New York to be involved with the arts, I ended up at Columbia University. After a false start with the NYC Church of Christ, God still held my hand, bringing me to Redeemer by way of Columbia’s Campus Crusade for Christ.
Over the years, I began to learn the meaning of the liturgy I had listened to as a boy. Like others at that time, I sometimes attended both the AM and PM services, along with many Q&As; for an extra helping of the Gospel and Redeemer. There were post service wine meet-ups. The strange brand of dating well-known at Redeemer at the time. Occasional forays into small groups.
Our church has provided me and directly or indirectly many people like me, a way to experience the very power of the universe – that is, the faith, love and hope of our savior Jesus Christ. Amen!’
Although the sermons had always been the highlight for me, I also hoped for more community – a challenge in rented buildings. Ellie Ellerson’s legendary ski trips were a big help, offering a bus load of us a chance to get to know others outside of the grab-and-go atmosphere of Redeemer’s post service coffee service. I began to make friends at church, though many of those people left New York over time. I tried out a number of community groups, but nothing seemed to stick.
In 1997, I met Katharine Cluverius, who would later become my wife, at a publishing party. I was astounded that not only did she want to come to church with me, she loved it too. Redeemer again! Upon ontemplating marriage, we listened to the marriage series tapes, and went to Jeff’s classes.
After being a Redeemer “consumer” for years, Katharine and I also became members. Of course, it wasn’t until we both joined a Beta group that we began to feel more alive in a community of believers. Catalyst then took us to new heights of stewardship. Kat became a Mom’s Group leader and I started West Side Men with Ted Morgan (who I knew from that original Campus Crusade group at Columbia). And we have a large group of friends at Church. David as offered us friendship and pastoral comfort. We feel part of the fabric.
And now? Well it seems like just yesterday when I first entered the wonderful, rich, Gospel soaked world of Redeemer – a world given light and meaning by our amazing Lord. Redeemer is home now, no matter where we end up living. Hearing Tim’s voice is like hearing a close family member’s voice. No wonder since I’ve listed to him for some 200 hours a year for over 20 years. I expect people will someday know of him like, say, J.S. Bach. What Redeemer has done is, I think, eternal.
But for me, personally, Redeemer has provided things I couldn’t previously imagine. Our church has provided me and directly or indirectly many people like me, a way to experience the very power of the universe – that is, the faith, love and hope of our savior Jesus Christ. Amen!