Times Square Church
One of the benefits of this blog is finding out what people are looking for…at least sorta. WordPress (the blog provider) gives the blog’s info to Google and other search engines (an option I selected) and when people search for words/phrases, my blog is in the running.
Well, I wouldn’t think it’s rank very high. Maybe out of 100,000 matches on Google, my blog might place on the second from the last page or so, but some people seem to like the second from the last page. I find some interesting phrases in the “referrer” portion of the blog report. For example, today someone came by looking for “Duane Street photos”. My blog may be one of the few that makes a reference to Duane Street so whoever it was somehow found me. Great. I have no problem with that….except I probably disappointed the poor guy as my photos were near Duane Street; not of Duane Street itself.
Nevertheless, I have a bit of the “guilts” about one search that someone made recently. It was a simple one reading “Times Square Church”. I do go to Church in Times Square virtually every week, but not at “Times Square Church” itself. Instead, I’m currently attending the Episcopal “Church of St. Mary the Virgin”. It’s a high Episcopal church with the nickname of “Smokey Mary’s” for their habit of using incense at the drop of a hat.
I, on the other hand, am about as low an Episcopalian as you can find. I go to the early service simply because it is a low Episcopal service (they love to call it a “Mass”, but my lowness has me refer to it as a “service” whenever I can). Although I’ve got a number of real qualms with the modern Episcopal Church, the service is one that has appealed to me for a great while. In addition, the Book of Common Prayer, even in its modern re-write, is a wonderful guide to the Christian Faith. The service and the Book of Common Prayer are inseparable and just touch me in my old fogey heart.
Nevertheless, I have gone to Times Square Church quite a number of times and, if that searcher ever comes back here to see what a former attendee has to say about it, I’m happy to provide an answer. Misguided and probably so wrong that I’ll flinch upon re-reading it; but an opinion nonetheless.
First, what is Times Square Church? It’s a Church founded by David Wilkerson sometime in the 80’s or 90’s. It is a rollicking, soulful, loud, and perfectly vibrant Church located around Broadway and 51st or so. The church building is actually centered around an old theater and it has a great view of the place from nearly everywhere. The denomination, I believe, is standard Pentacostal. The services last about two hours plus. My Episcopal services have anywhere from 3 to 25 attendees. Times Square Church has about a zillion (that’s a technical term).
Their services are centered around a very long musical intro and a moderately long sermon (an important caveat: they would say, and I would agree, that it is really centered around the worship of the Lord, but I’m only describing how they do that worship). I’ve only seen Wilkerson preach once. Usually, the sermon is provided by one of a number of staffers. Wilkerson is usually on the stage. However, I’ve only been there once in the past two years or so and can’t say what his habits are now.
I did enjoy the services when I went and the people there are about as friendly and outgoing as you’ll ever find in such a big Church; but it has a couple of problems that I couldn’t get over. First, the actual viewing area is limited to a few hundred people and do they show up early! Services start at about 10am on Sunday, but people start getting there somewhere after 8am, from what I understand, just to reserve a spot. You can reserve a spot just by leaving a personal item, but I think that a lot of spots have long-term “claims” on them of some sort. What it really means is that I would almost always end up at one of the annex areas (I used the one downstairs) where I would watch the service on a big TV screen. That got wearisome after a couple of months and I guess I just decided to move on to my old Episcopal Church. The other problems were minor. For example, I didn’t enjoy some of the music as it was a little too soulful gospel for me. One of the “benefits” of low-Episcopalian-ness that I’ve got is no music is necessary or expected. But, that’s my own fuddy-duddy side coming out.
The Times Square Church has to appeal all across the range of tastes because it is such a big Church, but I tend to prefer a little more solemness than the joyfulness that TSC uses to express their worship of the Lord. I admire and envy their connection; but I just don’t really share in it. I was the guy who just stood still while everyone else swayed. I’m just the whitest-white guy around. No big deal, but that’s the way I tend to be.
I was there a couple of months ago and did manage to get a seat in the main theater area. It was really nice and highly enjoyable, but I honestly get a real connection to the Lord in the reading of Creed and the Confession and the oh-so-familiar reading of the Passion (all of which are part and parcel of the Episcopal service). That’s a big deal and it matches the way I tend to be.
Nevertheless, sometimes I think the Episcopal Church (at least at the highest levels) is trying to drive away everyone that isn’t willing to go with their modernization agenda. And I don’t really feel that willing.