We happen to live in Washington Heights, venue for the popular movie, “In The Heights”. I moved here 40 years ago as a student in the 80’s. It was, at the time, the cocaine capital of the east coast and the Marielitos prevailed in vicious crime sprees. Two blocks over from my building is Armory which, at that time, sheltered 800 homeless men who often spilled out onto building doorsteps. None of this bothered me in fact, it was a renters delight at the time and perfect venue for a social work student.
While I have never seen Dominicans singing and dancing in the street, I have a love for my neighbors and community and appreciate enduring with them over the years. My husband and I remained active in our downtown church for over 20 years, but also hoped to find a church in the neighborhood. While the Lord graciously opened a small Bible study in our home for a year, my heart yearns for more, to worship and share the Gospel within the community. Is it just me or the Lord charging my heart?
We learned of a church gathering in the park just 3 blocks from us. Their website had some solid foundational tenets although with some contemporary ‘buzz words’, but we were open to whatever the Lord would show us, outside in a park on a summer morning. I love the idea of praising God, in English and Spanish, out in the park – may others hear and hearts stir!
Everyone was kind and welcoming. After a time of praise, the pastor spoke with a simple message from John chapter 3, ok. It was good to be with neighborhood folks, most I have never met. However, after the service we met with the pastor to flesh out the beliefs, mission, and teachings of the church. He was excited about youth outreaches, invites to athletics and games and gauging the needs of the community. From there he spoke with vigor of his Genesis Bible study, expounding on things that most people, including myself, don’t know and never heard of…”the first tabernacle was really in the Garden of Eden…..” He quoted a central author in this discovery whose name he mentioned several times but I can’t remember.
He explained at length how violations of “Social Justice” is the central issue behind of Israelites’ exile, founding the church mission of social justice. We could barely wedgeway into his mount of scriptural justifications – my head couldn’t digest his perspectives. Back to Genesis I honed in to ask point blank, “Do you believe in the Biblical account of creation, that God made all in six days?”
A two second hesitation here is all I need but he fueled up more fervor to explain how he was ‘freed’ from the conventional Biblical account through elaborate studies in sophisticated theology, history, and Egyptian culture. I will not even elude to at or hint at what he shared; unraveling the supernatural demonstrations of God’s power and His magnificence is just devilish.
At the end I restated, “I believe in the Bible’s account, it is the foremost introduction to God’s greatness and awesomeness. To diminish that, questions all of His supernatural power and the miracles throughout the Bible…”
As though speaking down to the ‘unenlightened’ he replied, “Yeah, my father still believes that” (I immediately thought, does he have a church? Where is it?) he added, “…and about 30-40% of our attendees at the church still believe that” (Until, I thought, they take your Genesis course and the truth is scrubbed out of their hearts!)
We left with my head swirling with ‘deep’ religious explanations I had never imagined but, moreover, I was heartbroken for the lack of holiness, brokeness for the lost and a fear of God.
God can surely call us to a place that is imperfect, incomplete – even chaotic. But never where truth is disdained and error is taught with fervor. Not sure how long we’ll still be in the Heights but my heart is still searching for God’s presence here and perhaps some sheep to join in worship, who love God and His precious unchanging word, and have a heart for the lost.
I will “keep on asking, seeking, and knocking”, praying for the Lord to order the steps of my feet and my heart. May He lead us to where He is working that we may co-labor with Him in the fields for the harvest.