By Tom Ehrich
Five years after moving to New York City, I find that I love being a Christian here.
There is only a little public support for religion here — holiday closings for Christmas and Good Friday, as well as the Jewish high holy days, the usual property tax breaks, and occasional media nods to religious leaders for comments.
Mostly, you have to do faith on your own here. Traffic doesn’t pick up steam on Sunday morning. Police don’t guide traffic into popular church parking lots. If you attend worship, you aren’t following a crowd. I don’t recall trendsters, scenesters or hipsters ever being quoted or photographed in a religious setting.
If you pray, you choose to do so. If you serve on a mission team out of faith conviction, you will find yourself working alongside people who are motivated by other convictions. You realize there is an impulse toward the good that has deeper roots than a particular religion.
I find my faith growing stronger here. One cause is the glorious diversity. A God of many names and accents surely has room for me. Another cause is seeing the need for God in a city where the ugly face of Mammon lurks everywhere. Another is getting beyond labels in a rainbow where little proceeds according to stereotype. Another is being liberated from strident extremists who demand that all faith resemble theirs.
I have also been blessed to find a faith community where the preaching is powerful and unapologetically so, where the usual inward-looking church battles simply get no traction, where the Gospel Choir grows larger because faith is magnetic.
Some churches have grand edifices, some don’t. The key here is authenticity. I resonate with that. I have learned the hard way that pretense offers nothing.
I love walking through Central Park on Easter morning and seeing knots of Christians gathered on boulders and lakefronts, praising God, singing resurrection songs, without any regard to being seen.