For All Who Hunger

Somewhere around 2014/15 a series of what we might call Godincidences brought St Lydia’s to my attention. I had stumbled upon a subject for my Masters’ thesis that involved sacramental theology and communal tables – and in the process discovered this “dinner church” in Brooklyn that appeared to embody much of the theology I was advocating. At the same time, a friend moved to NYC and joined the church’s staff team; another friend found themselves there sporadically when in the city… I finally made my first visit in September 2015, when over a two week break post-MA break, I managed to spend four evenings at St Lydia’s. (I wrote a very enthusiastic write up in the days when I still blogged regularly.)

I returned to St Lydia’s multiple times – my last visit was just a couple of weeks before my friend Hannah left the team to move to Toronto in January 2019. Each time, I picked up the name badge I’d written in 2015 and got stuck into to dinner conversation, washing up (always my preferred post-dinner chore) and after-church drinks. It’s also thanks to Lydians that I have a favourite karaoke/Korean food haunt in Brooklyn.

The Lydians setting up for Advent 2017

In St Lydia’s, I found a place where the meaning of the Lord’s Supper was enacted with an authenticity that felt lacking in many other churches. All were welcome at the tables; all were fed, physically & spiritually. [I have never gotten over the communion service I attended at a church in LA where in order to receive bread and wine I’d have needed to hand over documentation to prove that I was entitled to it. Not what Jesus meant people!!]

In the five years since my first Lydian encounter, I’ve pondered setting up a version of dinner church in my own context. Various things have got in the way, and now who knows what might be possible in a Covid-19 world? But the principles behind it remain inspirational.

By a stroke of luck, I managed to get onto the launch team for the release of For All Who Hunger – the story of how St Lydia’s came to be, by its founder Emily Scott. An advance e-copy of the book landed with me last month, but I’ve discovered that being a church leader in the midst of a global pandemic doesn’t allow much time for reading. So I find myself having finally read it – mostly within a single afternoon/evening – a week after it’s official launch. (Although it looks like readers in the UK can’t buy it till the end of May, so I feel marginally less guilty.)

British church culture currently seems very focused on church planting that results in large churches – particularly following the ‘resource church’ model. [Although who knows what the impact of Covid-19 will be on this? Perhaps we’ll be looking at planting lots more smaller churches….here’s hoping.] It was therefore refreshing to read Emily’s account of the slow grind in getting St Lydia’s off the ground.

“The part no one ever talks about is the humiliation. It’s humiliating to try to start a church in an aggressively secular city. To invite people to come to worship when they’ll likely think you’re unforgivably naïve, unsophisticated, uneducated, and conservative to believe in something so off-trend as God. It required divesting myself of the notion that I would ever, ever be anything resembling cool.”

For All Who Hunger isn’t a blueprint for starting up a church – every church, every leader and every community is different – but with its stories of how St Lydia’s evolved over the years, it provides examples that should inspire others. There’s common-sense relationship building – listening to people to hear what their needs are, rather than just barging in. Collaborating with the right people at the right time. Learning from those who were there first. There’s a powerful account of getting involved with Black Lives Matter and Faith in New York, told with acute awareness of white privilege. The description of the response to Hurricane Sandy hits particularly hard right now, as the world struggles to formulate a response to the pandemic. Who knows how St Lydia’s might have evolved were it not for the insight that that disaster provided?

The story of how the church evolved is told alongside (some of) the story of Emily’s own personal evolution.  As a single female church leader myself, I really appreciated Emily’s – often comedic, always realistic – insights into the perils of trying to date as a pastor! It concludes with her moving on from St Lydia’s – an important part of the journey that isn’t often told in this kind of book. St Lydia’s and Emily’s ministry continue, but in different places.

Ultimately, I’m grateful that there’s now a book I can point people towards when I tell them something of my own experience of St Lydia’s. Telling Brits to head over to the Atlantic for a Sunday or Monday night service isn’t particularly feasible, but reading this bridges that gap. It evokes so much of the atmosphere of St Lydia’s that when I finished reading late last night, I looked up from my iPad half expecting to be back in Brooklyn.

“St Lydia’s showed me abundance is a secret hidden inside of scarcity. It lives, tucked inside not-enoughness, waiting to show you that God does not do math. Abundance is discovering God’s provision right in the middle of your fret and worry.”

Friday Fun for the Bank Holiday

Greetings – I have just enough time before my annual pilgrimage to the green fields of Cheltenham Racecourse begins (aka Greenbelt) to share some fun with you. Apologies for the minimal blogging of late, I’ve been trying to wrap up an essay before the festival (which I’ve pretty much succeeded in) and been hugely productive in all areas of my life, other than blogging…

Firstly, the obligatory TfL fun. This week we have a 3D visualisation of the whole network, created by the departure/arrival data that TfL have recently begun releasing to the public. It is very pretty and I recommend having your sound on as it makes satisfying train noises too. It’s utterly hypnotising…

3D Tube

 

Secondly, if there’s one city in the world that’s almost as great as London, it’s New York. I’m a big fan of black & white historic photos of the city, so I rather adore a project by a blogger who is comparing archive shots with modern day New York. If you go the site, the photos have a slider so you can see more or less of the two photos. Fascinating.

Grand Central 1913 2013You can’t get more classically NYC than Grand Central Station.

Something else photographic which is pretty random, but fairly absorbing, is the humanae tumblr, where headshots of various people are placed against the Pantone colour background that matches some of their facial skin tone. Yes, I realise that doesn’t really make sense, which is why you need to see it:

humanae

Finally, the obligatory musical Friday Fun – and it’s amazing! I did share this on Twitter & Facebook last week, but if you haven’t seen it, you *need* to. An extremely talented impressionist sings Total Eclipse of the Heart in the style of at least 12 divas. It’s awe-inspiring – well, if you’re a wannabe diva who loves a good karaoke session.

And now we have a new game to play at karaoke…

Friday Fun that’s about 12 hours late…

Happy Friday! I do apologise – I began writing this first thing this morning, but ran out of time to finish it before heading to a meeting. Then I got caught up with cleaning/packing and now it’s Friday night. Sorry.

Lovers of hidden transport gems should be very happy indeed. Forget London’s lost tube stations – it turns out New York can beat us hollow. How’s this for a forgotten station?

Forgotten Station

Its story is similar to many in London – difficult location, too few passengers – but with the added complication of a platform/track that was too curved to make it safe for passengers to use it. The full story and lots more photos can be found here. Anyone up for a field trip over the pond?

Continuing the theme of classy, early twentieth century style, here’s a fabulous use of the last three seasons of Downton Abbey – a mash-up of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful. I love this for a number of reasons:
1. It replaces the word ‘overwhelmed’ with ‘flabbergasted’.
2. The ‘na-na-na’ section becomes ‘ma-ma’ and ‘pa-pa’. Genius.
3. This song is currently on my motivational playlist. Don’t laugh. Should you pass me on the street and find me looking incredibly happy and confident, the chances are that this is playing very loudly in my earphones.

While on the subject of drama, this weekend is Oscars weekend – are you excited? I expect not. I for one will have just arrived in Africa when the ceremony kicks off, and will only have marked the occasion by catching up on Oscar nominated movies courtesy of BA’s in-flight entertainment. (I’ve already checked online, and Argo’s on the list. This makes me very happy.) Anyway, here’s a trailer for ‘every Oscar winning movie ever’ – genius:

Have I mentioned I’m going to a hot country on Sunday?? Also in warm climes this week were the Swingle Singers – what are the chances that I’d be able to feature one of their flashmobs on two consecutive Fridays? Instead of a cold rugby stadium, this time we have them in what looks like gorgeously temperate Dubai. It should be noted that this video includes their interpretation of Single Ladies – as heard on Radio 3’s In Tune recently.

Finally, because I’ve been told that I’ll be somewhere simply beautiful next week, here’s something beautiful to end this week with:

Yes, that’s Namibia and I’ll be in Uganda, but it’s the same continent. In fact, next week will be a rare occasion when I’m on the same continent as my good friend Ian – he’s currently interning in Namibia. (The last time we were on the same continent was last summer while I was in Texas and he was home in Vermont. We rarely make it to the same city…) But still, it’s utterly beautiful.

Friday Fun can be educational too

Three things for today…

1. Something to make you laugh (and hopefully teach you something):

I have it on good understanding that if you’re currently suffering from beginning of academic year sniffles (or freshers’ flu), watching this will make you feel heaps better. In the mean time, I’ll be on the look out for a vicar with a spinning head…

2. Something educational, crafty and really rather fabulous. Ever wanted to learn how to knit a pigeon?

(In my head there’s a brilliant link between those two videos, but no one else would understand it, so I’ll keep quiet.)

3. Something geeky, mathematical and utterly hilarious:

Ahhh, Mr Cosby – a wise, wise, man. [I will admit that my tired, not very mathematical brain took about 30 seconds to work out this joke when shown it last night.]

I know I said I had three things for you, but in the course of writing this post I’ve found a bonus item. Courtesy of a face to face connection and a Twitter introduction, I’ve discovered a rather lovely blog about New York’s public transport. Public Transit Adventures is a combination of photography and the all important random public transport encounters – an excellent place to while away a tedious Friday morning.

Friday Fun – a truly random assortment

This week’s Friday Fun is being composed in haste, so is simply a collection of the week’s highlights – you are therefore spared my try-hard tenuous links.

First up, something beautiful, musical and involving a public transportation map – it’s like a Christmas and birthday combined! Found via the ever amusing Dave Walker, this is an audio-visual representation of the New York subway system at work: http://www.mta.me

You might possibly be amused by a Twitter exchange that followed (or not…):
LC: “Would be interested to see a London one, though parts would go silent during the obligatory rush hour signal failure.”
DW: “Yes, London would have to include (for instance) Circle line train stopping for an irritatingly long time at Aldgate, etc”
AM: “You know that’s only so the driver can get out and pee? I think they should have spare drivers for such purposes”
DW: “Really? They must have very ineffectual hand dryers or some such.”
LC: “Don’t start suggesting there should be spare drivers or no loo breaks – they’ll call for more strike action!”
DW: “All I’m calling for is for the staff conveniences to be near platform 1 and with effective hand dryers.”
Disclaimer – I’m not sure that all the information contained within the above is factually correct.

At the end of the week, what else could be more amusing that funny animals? How about a funny Hollywood actor like Tom Hanks? Ok, so he’s not that funny (except maybe occasionally in Big) but when you combine him with animals – even unfunny animals – it becomes hilarious. And thus, the world has given us “Tom Hanks is a Lot of Animals”:

I particularly like the variety of Tom Hanks’ faces used in these photos.

Finally, something for all you Musical Theatre obsessed First Aiders (this could be a post in itself as it simultaneously fascinates and bizarres me) – the St John Ambulance have formed a partnership with popular West End show Wicked in an effort to educate primary school children on the importance of First Aid*. 
Yes, First Aid and the West End. But it gets better, I quote from the website:

“Asking ‘What would Elphaba do?’ is an effective way to encourage pupils to think about the values that underpin first aid.”

Quite frankly, ‘What would Elphaba do?’ has been my personal mantra for some time. I’d like to see the campaign launch a wristband (preferably violent green in hue) bearing the letters WWED so that I can have a physical reminder at all times. If you spot me looking green, wearing black, carrying a broomstick and jumping on furniture while singing too loudly, then I’ll have taken the mantra a little too far… 
*Incidentally, First Aid is extremely important – I do not intend to undermine this. My Grandad drove an ambulance you know!