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Free & Fit - Church Beyond the Wall - Site Study - My Hoboken Neighborhood

Free & Fit - Church Beyond the Wall - Site Study - My Hoboken Neighborhood

Chosen Context - Neighbourhood Area including Parishes of Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran and Episcopal tradition (Eccumenical Context)

Context Setting - My Experience and Neighbourhood

My chosen case study is in an area near to four Churches along my local high street, close to my house on Washington Street and 6th, in the City of Hoboken New Jersey. Hoboken is very close to New York City. As part of my seminary career, and in context to my personal related experiences to this neighborhood, I have had the opportunity to work at a Lutheran Church as a Children's Education Director, to work for an Episcopal Church as a Youth Director and Preacher at a First Year Seminarian and also preach at two Baptist Churches as a guest preacher in Clifton Forge, Virginia and Madison, New Hampshire. All in similar settings to City-locations like Hoboken, New Jersey.

Currently, I am at an Epsicopal seminary studying in my final year (4/4 years) as a commuter and working in bi-vocational ministry as someone who coaches tennis part time for 5-10 hours a week, works for Hillsong NYC 20 hours a week as part of my wisdom year at seminary, studies 12 (plus auditing 4 more) credits at General seminary and runs the Free & Fit NYC chapter in the North Eastern part of the United States.

As part of our work at Free & Fit NYC we have historically partnered with local Churches and ministries including the Hoboken Homeless Shelter, Mile Square Church, the Alpha course, Hoboken coworking spaces, Jefferson Coffee, O Bagel, Stevens Christian Fellowship, BWE, Hoboken Evangelical Free Church, Lunchtime Ministries, the Hoboken Housing Authority and Free & Fit’s shared relationship through my work with Westwood United Methodist Church, New Jersey and our Connect Group members at Hillsong NYC and City Hope.

Assignment Context - Parochial Church

For the purposes of this assignment, to reign my focus in, I am going to focus on the Parochial context of missional and evangelism opportunities for the Hoboken Episcopal Church on 7th and Washington called All Saints and the Lutheran Church on 8th and Washington called Saint Matthews. These two Churches share spaces, share missional activities including inter-faith services, seasonal Church celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, support All Saints Episcopal Day School, the Hoboken Homeless Shelter and Lunchtime Ministries.

My own context and application will be through my role as a practitioner as a Wisdom Year missionary student serving inthe local community for our Church Hillsong New York City aspart of our Hudson County Connect group and Project Manager of Free and Fit New York City. In context, Free & Fit’s mission is to build community through Sports, the Arts, Outreach and Service. This will become more relevant as we explore the local Parish. Again, this Parish focus comes from my own background, tradition and experience of being a Wesleyian Anglican from a Church of England parochial childhood.

Questions: What do you notice about the Church’srelationship with the surrounding community?

My neighbourhood walks have included investigating the local Churches relationship with its supporting infrastructure for the Homeless, Less Able and those in crisis. Essentially theoutreach, missional work and Bible study groups to itsneighbours.

Both St Matthews and All Saints offer support, resource and volunteers to other local ministries to build an excellent community outreach to the City through networking and supporting local Nonprofits (partnerships), Emergency Services (Chaplaincy), Homeless Shelter (Volunteers), Food Pantry (Jubilee Centre) and other seasonal work across the City. The work completed by the Anglican and Lutheran Churches appears to be done in unison, with support of other Churches and other interfaith organizations including those who are members of the Hoboken Clergy Council. Yet, their work is also only made possible through the support of teams, ministries and leaders within their Churches, PCC equivalent and board of trustees.

Excellent work and evident eccumenical relationships formed together through denominational Churches working togetheracross shared spaces and Church buildings. This alsoincludes the Jubilee Centre, Episcopal Church Holy Innocents, St Matthews Centre and occupying each other's Church spaces on special occasions including Christmas and Easter for ceremonial services and said liturgical prayers. This is especially a practice I am fond of and supports the shared communion practices between Episcopal and Lutheran Churches.

Who is not participating in a church within the contextyou are observing?

The gap between young families, the adults and elderly in the Church is a national issue for many denominational Churches across America, but Hoboken is a student town with close proximity to New York City on its doorstep and, despite being very cosmopolitan, diverse and arguably in a post-modern Christian era it still has enough Churches for all of its population.

However, only very few people are returning to in person services and All Saints will only have its first full Sunday inperson service this Sunday having been outdoors or online,more recently indoors and outdoors, for both it's 8am and 10am. St Matthews has an in person 10am service and hascontinuously offered in person food through its Lunch TimeMinistry.

As part of our Summer Camp in 2019 we partnered with LTMand interviewed Project Manager Spike (Interview here:

The Churches are rapidly responding to its congregational changing needs and have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to support both its parishioners and people in need or crises. Yet, the 8am service at All Saints still only attracts 12 people on a Sunday morning and like other Churches everywhere is struggling to see people return to Church inperson.

The non-participating persons from these congregations are not just the unChurched, but the uncharacteristically online digitally exhausted attendees who have forgotten how to socially interact outside of liking friends post on social media. Perhaps they used to be a part of people groups who would bake cakes for one another, go to Dunkin Donuts together or make Birthday parties and anniversary celebrations happen. Now these occasional formalities have ceased.

The culture of coffee hour no longer exists on Zoom or in person. This begs the question. Where can local Churches respond to bring their congregants back? What can the Church do to respond to a change in culture? Or do we need to be more proactive in encouraging our unChurched friends and change the missional outlook from the Church to us? Only time will answer our prayers of some form of return to normality.

Consider questions such as: Who do you need to learn from? Whose story do you want to hear?

It would be very interesting to learn from Father Alex at the Catholic Church in Hoboken on Church Square. He has access to the beauty and wonder of a much bigger congregation, Church building and support staff, but he has a more significant rapid response from congregants to return to Church and to receive communion. Morning services are upto 100-150 people and evening services have 50-100 people at Mass. He has been serving as a Priest for 39 years, my whole life span!

All age groups, including students and young adults, are attending and new people are joining with young families and confirmands. Another Church that is doing well is the Hoboken Evangelical Free Church on 9th and Clinton plus its involvement in Stevens Christian Fellowship which is growing exponentially with new Alpha courses, outreaches, coffee runs and games nights. It is also worth noting the expansion of Chris High’s Hoboken Grace where they have just recently purchased the former Bow Tie cinema, home of Mile Square Church, and plan to move uptown to introduce a new community centre and to fulfill its own missionary purpose ofserving Hoboken as a Community Church. A Church that both serves its community and provides its community throughservice, worship and communion together.

Who could a church in the community partner with rightnow?

Reflecting on our readings, the observation of this Parochial context and the discussions we have had as a class through this past semester I recognise three partners which spring to my mind for the St Matthews Lutheran Church and Episcopal All Saints Church. Firstly, the Mile Square theatre company for the opportunity to perform and host musical performances together. The first attraction of this collaboration is the ancient and modern practice of artistic interpretation Worship. As identified by Anne in one of her previous bulletin board comments, our current generational Christians may not understand the value of post colonial liturgical worship unless it is met in an unfamiliar context. So instead of a Christmas Carol service or Christmas pageant maybe a Sung Liturgical Choir performance at Christmas at the Mile Square theatre may provide a future Christmas and Easter play performances and act as a musical outreach.

With Church and local community volunteers working together in tandem the opportunity to reintroduce ancient liturgical traditions, through a more modern Christmas performance, could help relate the ancient to the currentmusical trends and traditions of our day.

Another community partner could be the Hoboken Real Estate Agents across the neighborhood parish. If Pastors from the Anglican and Episcopal Churches were able to connect with the local context they could invite new tenants, homeowners and landlords to community Church events. By offering parishioners their services and making themselves available for ceremonial blessings such as Baptisms, Funerals and Weddings the Pastors could become on a first name basis and be introduced to new Hoboken residents.

Finally, the other people could by health and fitness, gym, restaurant and coffee shop owners. Similar to Realtors, the Health, Food (specifically pizza) and coffee markets in Hoboken offer great opportunities for Pastors to invite customers and owners to their Churches if they are available for ceremonial blessings. It's a simple introduction, if you need any pastoral care or support and would like me to support this is my card type introduction. A simple way to build rapport, break down awkwardness and be a blessing to the local community.

Community Interviews

The community interviews I constructed were also in the local context of Hoboken. The first Pastor I interviewed from the Church context was somebody who has done missionary work in both New Jersey and New York City and was very familiar with the City of Hoboken. The second Pastor was another person who had done missionary work across New Jersey including Ridgefield and was currently serving in Hoboken.

The interviews were open and constructed prior to the-submission of this paper. However, it is worth noting that other people were asked the same questions by the author of this paper and the depth of responses across Traditional and Progresive Churches offered really interesting surprises about their thoughts on the topics of mission and evangelism, but the recordings of

these interviews were not relevant to the paper so will be posted to the bulletin board of this module.

Questions: How would you describe your understanding of the Church in America? What is your response to words orconcepts such as evangelism and mission?

1st Person New Jersey Outreach Pastor

The Church in America….Love it! My perspective is much more along the lines of what is possible, convenient and whatis happening right now, more than what is needed or whatchurch could look like. As a Church, we are all now more open. I am running Bible studies, mens Breakfasts, workout groups and monthly check-ins with people via Zoom. In terms of Evangelism to me living out our faith through our words, actions and conversations outside the “christian” circle. Beyond the Church walls! The Great Commission is our Mission: what Jesus left us with, very similar to evangelism, in that we do it outside of the Church, in community and not alone.

2nd Person Hoboken Pastor

I believe the church in America is the same as the church anywhere. It is the gathered body of baptized believers in the risen Jesus who are collectively his instrument to bless the world and share his gospel with everyone. It is broken and far, far from perfect, but it is Jesus’ bride nonetheless. My response to those words is that evangelism is descriptive of an activity that takes place within the broader mission of the church which is to make disciples of all nations teaching everyone to obey everything Jesus commanded us. That is to say, evangelism takes place numerous times between a discipler and one who is being discipled both before and afterone confesses faith in Christ. Discipleship then is the overallprocess of looking more like Jesus and living into the redeemed Imago Dei and growing in our character and calling

What are some of your greatest hopes for the communityyou live, work and/or play within?

1st Person New Jersey Outreach Pastor

Greatest hopes for community: regardless of skin color, class of life, etc that we do live together and love each other theway Jesus loved us. To not segregate or dominate theconversation and to allow the Holy Spirit to move in the Church and in people's lives. To preach the Gospel and bringthe Good News to all the people of Hoboken and beyond!

2nd Person Hoboken Pastor

Greatest hope for all of these communities is for true shalom to enter into every nook and cranny of the town's heart. For not just the absence of conflict, but for human thriving to take

place in a way that glorifies God and honors people. That God would be glorified, justice and mercy would prevail and God's Word would be preached.

What are some of your greatest concerns for the community you live, work and/or play within?

1st Person New Jersey Outreach Pastor

Greatest concerns?! Interesting question, immediately we must not only live with those who look like us, talk like us and act like us. Identify the difference by our similarity, that we all ultimately need Christ.

Yes, that's the process we need to build for our outlook. Who we are on this earth is not a response to who we are in Christ.We may look differently, but we have to see each other as allmade in the image of God. Without an understanding of this we will lose sight of why we need God. We must pursue Christin all we do.

2nd Person Hoboken Pastor

Greatest concerns would be all of the things that detract fromthe possibility of thriving including the idolatry of politics, success, image, hedonism, wealth, work, money, celebrity, and politics among other things. We can become so obsessed with these things that we lose sight of our own self worth. Our intrinsic value is not in cosmetics or our salary, but in our ability to pick up our cross and follow Christ.

What do you wish the Church understood about yourcommunity,

1st Person New Jersey Outreach Pastor

What do I wish our Church understood about our community? Great question! That we are all different and working towardsa common ground where we work/live/associate with oneanother the way we were intended to interact. Similar to the early Church, to be one in Christ and to not be served, but to serve.

2nd Person Hoboken Pastor

I wish the Church understood that the community I inhabit is areflection of where the rest of the country will likely be in 10-15 years. The operating assumption still presents church as thedispenser of religious goods and services. It’s a place you gorather than the people we are.

Connected to that is the question that many church people ask, “How do we get them to come to us?”

I would have the church ask the opposite question: how do we go to them and enter into their life experiences, stories, and convictions and share good news with them? How do we love them without having an agenda of ONLY doing so in order to make them Christian WHILE ALSO desiring forthem to get to know Jesus on a personal level? So I wish the church would see itself as a community that is loved and sent in this way rather than an organization that’s trying to figure out how to recruit new members.

Reflection on Research and Findings

Hoboken is an interesting City with various Churches across one square mile. The day of my submission I sat down to write and reflect on my own experience of Worship from All Saints Hoboken who helped me to have a more deliberate intent in my context setting and a deeper understanding of All Saints missional and evangelistic context. I would like to note neither Pastor from All Saints or St Matthews is one of my two selected Pastors in this paper’s research.

For the purposes of this paper I wanted anonymity and for nondenominational or

non-denominational pre-conceptions to not cloud the reader's response to my two selected Pastors responses. I have also added so e additional comments which deeper reflected the discussion we had. This is why my introduction is so introspective. In order for me to find a context, I had to literally create one, as I don't have access to any Episcopal congregation and I am finding myself, as an egalitarian and traditional evangelist, making my own context setting more and more alien to the Episcopal Church.

Coming from a Church of England context and speaking to various Americans about their understanding of the Church in America helps me understand a lot more about the current landscape of the Church. Where my own context is, Hillsong NYC, we have very little presence in Hoboken. Apart from our Connect Group, we haven't seen many people join our Church in person from Hoboken so we are hoping to build more community in the Hudson County area moving forward.

The congregation at Hoboken Grace in Hoboken continues to grow and attracts many of the people who may have chosen to attend a Hillsong style Church from our area. The problem is ensuring we contextually dont tread on each others toes. This does not change or expand the number of people attending Church if we swap locations, it just reduces the size of one and perhaps reduces the transformation in a person's life and instills a consumerist style of approaching Church life. If I get offended at one Church, I can always join another as they need me and I need them.

Except, it's Jesus we need and we all need to get back to that ideology. Instead we are stuck in bed, tuning into Church two days later and forgetting we had a small group yesterday before we even watched the Sunday sermon. Eventually, after four hours of Netflix we get to watch Church after work on Friday. Sunday morning again looks likean unlikely live recording viewing. Well thats maybe just how it feels for some of us, but it does paint a picture of where some people are in their approach to attending Church today.

Mission and evangelism are changing. People are changing. However, the Church is responding and the Hoboken and Lutheran Churches are sewing deep, supporting the local community and being the Church of Jesus Christ to the lost and the helpless. The need for growth is evident, but first let's ensure we are set up to receive more people, to overcome the immedaite concerns of mental health in our society and support our fellow Brothers and Sisters in our congregational settings right where we. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Perhaps its unfashionable to say it, but one of the issues raised outside of our recorded interviews was about the culture of creating the American self made man in the Church and instead of building an authentic culture of Jesus loving and Gospel Preaching christians we are focusing on ourselves.

So instead of trying to sell our faith, let's share our faith. Instead of trying to kill our Christ, let's resurrect the idea of making Jesus our best friend again. Not our boyfriend or girlfriend, but our best friend. The one we go to when we need to pay our rent, EZ pass bills or just remember to do the laundry and move the car on street cleaning day. Our battle is not with the Parking authority or delayed MTA train drivers, it is with the dark rulers and authorities of the Spirit world. We can not let our predetermined fears and worst case scenarios deny us opportunities to preach Christ crucified. We have to get back to in person Church services and open our homes again.

In conclusion, Hoboken needs more of Jesus and that's why I have begun to explore new ways of doing outreach. Attempting to partner with our Brothers and Sisters sometimes creates conflict, reduces our opportunities to build our community in out own Church and can even damage established relationships, but we have to try and we have to yield our own influence and allow the Holy Spirit to take over. In order to fully understand mission and evangelism we have to truly understand why we do it. As Jesus said himself, not my will be done Lord, but your will be done.

Love & Blessings F&F Team

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