(Please see video below; some of you will recognize Sam Powell, Cynthia Powell, Larry Craig, Jim Brown, Teresa Brown of “Upside Down,” and Oneitchi from Africa missionary lore)
Hardy & Healthy. To people familiar with the New York City church in our ICOC family, those two words come as no surprise in describing the 3000-ish disciples of that great church. Lynne and I just returned from a weekend in NY–New Brunswick New Jersey to be specific–where we served as keynote speakers for their annual married retreat, this year entitled “Fireproof.” While we were there, we had the joy of getting to re-know Sam and Cynthia Powell, who quarterback their staff leadership team. Moreover it was a thrill to get to know the NYC elders (a shout out to the Kellys from the Craigs!) and their thoughtful, engaged marrieds ministry. We also had a chance to reconnect with Ryan McCullough, who works for the Central Jersey church as a campus intern and was converted here in Seattle while a student at Lakeside HS. Lynne and I spoke to their staff on Friday evening, then to the marrieds on Saturday and Sunday.Our conversations there were so “normal”: deep, respectful, open, inquiring, and warm.
Planted in 1983 by Steve and Lisa Johnson (currently leading the Portland congregation) and a handful of disciples from all over the US, the NY church lit a candle for the world in the 80’s and 90’s, sending leaders, missions money, and mission teams all over the region, to Africa, and to the Caribbean. They pioneered arts ministry and the so-called Daytimers ministry for those (again, often artists) who work at night, and produced ineffably moving muscials like Upside Down and Slingshot which still encourage us today.
Like most of us, the last few years have been hard on NY. Most recently, confusion and chaos have, thanks to dedicated elders and other leaders who kept their spiritual heads, segued into respectful reform that has the NY church on the move again in every way. The maturity is palpable and the congregation grew by 250 last year. Pray for them, even as we ask them to pray for us. My personal hope and prayer is that our two churches will forge close ties in the near future–how else to placate Kelly and Whitaker (Mr. Hell’s Kitchen), right?
I said, am I right? Are you talkin’ to me? Are you talkin’ to me?