Wednesday, September 19, 2012

St. Paul's Chapel & Locating the Sacred: Two NYC Faith Experiences

Halfway through a busy third week of my internship year in New York, I wanted to write a real quick post about two amazingly powerful, but very different, faith experiences I had over the last two weekends.  Despite having grown up only a couple hours north in Connecticut, I never really spent much time in the city until this year... attending a taping of TRL sometime in middle school, an Iraq War protest in high school and a couple Yankees games notwithstanding, I really hadn't experienced New York very much.

St. Paul's Chapel
One of the things I always wanted to do here was to walk around Greenwich Village following all of the old Dylan related spots... cafes he played at, the street where the picture on the cover of the The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was taken... stuff like that (I'm a huge nerd), so I set out to do just that two weekends ago, and Molly was nice enough to come along with me.  It was a pretty nice day out and we definitely had fun in the village, especially hanging out in Washington Square Park, but near the end of the afternoon we still didn't feel quite done... we wanted to experience a little more, so we decided to take a long walk down to the financial district.  While I originally intended mainly to get a picture of me fighting that golden bull statue that is somewhere near Wall Street (I think), we ended up decided to spend some time reflecting near ground zero, and that's when the faith experience started.  Given that it was the weekend before 9/11, we had little success getting tickets to see the new memorial, but we did have a chance to visit St. Paul's Chapel, an amazing place I had somehow never heard of before.  St. Paul's Chapel, part of the Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church parish, withstood the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings across the street and ended up serving as a place of respite for rescue and construction workers, as well as an active memorial site.  Weekly worship still takes place in the space, and it continues to act as pilgrimage place for over a million folks every year.  What an amazingly powerful example of a faith community serving its community.

Alhaji Papa Susso
This past weekend, I had very different but still amazing faith experience while attending a concert in the Queen's Botanical Garden as part of the ongoing Locating the Sacred festival organized by the Asian American Arts Alliance.  It was absolutely perfect weather out... just a little cool with a breeze and surrounded by a beautiful garden I was blessed to be able to listen to traditional music from around the world.  Entitled "The Gift of Wisdom," the event featured four distinct performances: Mala Desai began with a devotional Odissi dance from India, followed by a kora performance by a lively master named Alhaji Papa Susso.  Yoon Sook Park was absolutely amazing playing the kayagum (a Korean zither) and Ikhlaq Hussain followed her up by an epic sitar performance.  The highlight of the evening though, I think, was when all of the performances came out and played together at the end of the show.  Some of the music last weekend was specifically religious in nature, some wasn't, but the best part of the event was that it helped a really diverse crowd explore what can be held up as truly sacred, no matter what faith (or lack of religious faith) one might ascribe to.  I'd highly encourage folks in the city to take part in the remainder of the festival events throughout the city this week... everything's being wrapped up by a choreographed flash mob in Washington Square Park this Sunday.

All I can say in conclusion at this point is, boy, this city if full of opportunity for dialogue and shared experience with persons of really diverse faiths and backgrounds... what an awesome blessing.

God's peace,

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

1 comment:


    Is it possible to be saved without having your sins forgiven? Was Saul saved by faith alone before his sins were forgiven?

    If Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, then he was saved without having his sins forgiven.

    Saul believed in Jesus on the road Damascus, but his sins were forgiven three days later in Damascus
    Act 9:1-19......9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank....

    Saul sins were forgiven in Damascus, three days later, not on the road to Damascus.
    Acts 22:1-16.....10 And I said, 'What shall I do Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.'.......16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins,calling on His name!

    Saul was not saved by faith only. Saul was saved by believing and being baptized in water.

    Jesus did not establish faith only salvation on the road to Damascus. Jesus confirmed what He already had said "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved"... (Mark 16:16)

    You cannot be saved unless your sins have been forgiven.

    In order to support the doctrine of faith only men have offered many reasons why the Scriptures cannot be trusted.
    1. The Bible is not the inerrant word of God, it has many errors and contradictions.
    2. You have to be a Greek scholar to understand the Bible. If you understand the original Greek language, then you would know water baptism is not essential for forgiveness of sins.
    3. You need to use extra-Biblical writings to understand the plan of salvation.
    4. The Bible has been mistranslated, therefore men are saved by faith only and not the way it is presented in the Bible.

    If God is not smart enough to give men an accurate translation of His plan for salvation and Christian living, then why would anyone trust in Him for salvation or for anything else.

    God has given us His plan of salvation in many translations, in different languages. You do not have to know Greek.You do not have to have a Greek dictionary. You do have to be Greek. If men had to be able to read and understand original Greek to understand the Bible, then all Bibles would be in Greek.


    Men are not saved by faith only and there is no verse of Scripture that states men are saved by faith only. Men are saved by faith, but not by faith only.

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